Winter divas at Levens Green, Ware
PUBLISHED: 14:41 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:46 20 February 2013
An infinite amount of patience goes into every Hellebore that Lorna Jones breeds and grows from seed at her specialist nursery at Levens Green near Ware. Philippa Pearson succumbs to the delightful winter charm of Hellebores
WINTER can be a bit of no-go time in the garden. Short days and unpredictable weather hardly tempt us to enjoy this gardening season but some plants have a remarkable resilience and bucketfuls of charm to be headline divas in the border when little else is worthy of a second look. The Lenten Rose, Helleborus x hybridus, pushes up flower buds from as early as mid-December, blooming into May when shiny foliage continues the interest. A heavy frost can level the flower stalks to the ground but as the winter sunshine gently lifts the temperature, the stems miraculously recover.
Lorna Joness interest in hellebores began over 20 years ago when her sister gave her a clump of plants from the cottage she was moving from. Lorna liked the exotic palmate leaves and interesting green flowers, they were very different from plants her mother grew, and eventually found out they were Helleborus foetidus. Lorna, from Levens Green near Ware, soon became fascinated by these plants, particularly the Helleborus orientalis group which are now classified as Helleborus x hybridus. By concentrating her attention to detail, which includes hand pollination, on flower shape, size and intensity of colour, leaf characteristics, flowering period and disease resistance, Lorna is now acknowledged as one of the finest breeders of hellebores in the UK. Each flower is different and unique with the best hellebores produced from seed strains rather than named varieties. Flowers are single or double blooms and colour ranges from pure white to pink, red, purple and blue-black. The splashes and markings add to their charm.
Growing hellebores from seed needs patience as it takes three to four years for the plants to flower. If all this seems too slow a process, luckily for us Lorna has an annual sale of her fabulous plants at her nursery, Hertfordshire Hellebores, during February and March. All plants offered are three to four years old and in flower so you can plant them instantly when you get home. Its often been said, with great accuracy, laughs Lorna, that Hellebores are highly addictive things! If you havent discovered the winter charms of Hellebores, the outstanding range Lorna grows will surely tempt you to try some in your garden.
Lornas tips for growing hellebores
- Hellebores grow easily from seed: select a healthy plant with good flower characteristics and sow fresh after ripening, around late May-June
- Sow in gritty compost and keep trays cool and damp: seedlings appear by January
- Potting on in spring, plant out in their permanent flowering positions in the autumn
- Prepare the ground before planting by incorporating plenty of organic matter like leaf mould or well rotted garden compost
- Hellebores will grow in most soils but prefer a semi-shaded site and the huge leaves also provide a canopy to help keep the soil cool in summer
- Keep the soil moist if you only have a sunny site or try growing them in containers
Visit Hertfordshire Hellebores
The nursery is open during February and March from 10am to 4pm
on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
Other times by appointment only.
Green Lane Farm, Levens Green, Ware, Hertfordshire SG11 1HD
Telephone: 01920 438458