Is there a harder flower to photograph than the hellebore? There I am in Waterlow Park, upside down and hair dangling while I try to aim the camara-phone upwards and approximate where the little bloomers are to take the shot in the right direction.

Helleborus (known colloquially as Lenten Rose) are a great way to bring a little delicacy and colour to shadier spots at this time of year. I say ‘this’ time, as usually by now we’d be rushing past them to view the usual Easter Spring characters; daffs, crocuses and hyacinths. But the weather has been so cold that those showier stars are still edging very reluctantly on stage, leaving a little more room for the understudies to shine.

Their saucer flowers nod forwards over their architectural, often evergreen foliage. Tilting a face upwards you are rewarded by the subtlest of markings, flares and speckles. No two flowers are quite the same, and the colours of the plants themselves can never be known until they flower for the first time. These Hellebores x hybridus cross-pollinate so they can pop up in pinks, damsons, greenish-whites and sometimes the darkets slate blue-blacks.

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If you’d like specific colour, Helleborus niger is a fresh, clean white and Helleborus × hybridus ‘Harvington Smokey Blues’ starts out at least as a gorgeous dusky claret. Take a look at Crocus’ range online here.

Think about inter-planting some supporting cast, such as crocuses, the delicate blue grape hyacinth (Muscari) Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’ and blue Scillas, as well as small ferns. All these plants grow well in the same Spring woodland-edge situation… dappled shade and richer soil.

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Pulmonaria Blue Ensign
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Hellebores can be pot-bound; with means the roots are twisted round from trying to escape. So when you plant them, tease the roots open and splay them out a bit (be brave!) to ensure they get a good foothold in the soil. Then you’ll enjoy an early Spring treat while you wait for the blasted sun to come out.

Mythical bonus info: In Greek mythology, Melampus of Pylos used hellebore to save the daughters of the king of Argos from a madness, induced by Dionysus, that caused them to run naked through the city, crying, weeping, and screaming. Well!