Monday, December 28

Living up to its name

I've always thought that Helleborus Niger - the Christmas Rose was inappropriately named on several counts.
  • It's not black (niger)
  • It's not a rose or even from the rose family
  • Despite featuring in many Christmas cards - it doesn't flower at Christmas.
This year it is living up to the Christmas handle and as in many other gardens ours is in full flower.
Some flowers have even already gone over and it is a pity soil has splashed some of the flowers but the plant has flowered better than any previous year and avoided slug devastation so we can't have everything.




The other hellebores are also beginning to flower.




Early flowering of plants has been put down to mild weather but is it more complicated than that. Plants can be artificially triggered into bloom by changing the light levels to simulate different day lengths and they also respond to fluctuations in temperature. So maybe the early flowering is more complicated than it simply being in response to the mild winter.

Update:

Apparently the origin of the name Christmas Rose comes from a legend whereby a young shepherdess was weeping as she had no gift to offer baby Jesus. As her tears hit the snowy ground they changed to pure white flowers. An angel appeared and told her there was no better gift for the baby than the pure white flowers that sprung from tears of love and devotion.

The best answer I can find for the reference to black is that it is because the roots are dark but I don't intend to dig on up the find out.


22 comments:

  1. What a nice surprise for Christmas.
    In a normal year, we'd be buried in snow at this time, but the freakishly mild and snowless winter had even a few pansies blooming here.
    Happy New Year to you folks. Looking forward to another year of your posts.
    :)

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    1. If we get any snow it is more likely in the new year. We are lucky as we are in an area that doesn't often get really heavy snow that sticks around. Now I am wishing that I hadn't said that.

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  2. They are so lovely and I bet they give a welcome splash of colour in the garden. I have always known them as Lenten Lilies {which is what some folks call daffodils too} Much easier to call them Hellebores, at least you know what you mean!

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    1. I've heard hellebores called lenten rose, Deborah but not lenten lily. Strange how inappropriate names attach themselves to plants

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  3. I'd planned to buy some this year but never got round to it, they are lovely plants so I will have to buy some soon x

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    1. Mine were all bought as small plants in collections, Jo which is more economical but you have to wait a couple of years for flowers. I have some bought a couple of years ago that I hope will flower this year.

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  4. As you know, my own Christmas Rose is in flower too. They're lovely plants.

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  5. I do hope ours are not up at all otherwise they might have serious problems (sudden severe frost with no snow cover and they will be over with).

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    1. Maybe it will be mild for you too this year, Alain.

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  6. I agree - I think the relatively cool, overcast summer conditions also helped set up (?spring) flowers that actually bloomed when the mild winter weather happened to come along.

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    1. We have one hellebore, S and D that always is well ahead of the rest to flower and that benefits from a patch of sunlight. The others in the same bed are moistly shaded when that one starts into flower. Also the ones in the above photos have more light than the ones nearer the house which are showing no signs yet. They are all experiencing the same weather and soil conditions so I would wager light is a trigger for hellebores.

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  7. Helebore is always interested me! Beautiful!

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  8. Well, I reckon the Hellebores are getting in quick because they have seen the weather forecast... Is there an aquatic version? Preferably one that will withstand 90mph winds...

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    1. You have 'voiced' my concern, Mark that all these ear;y flowers will be spoiled.

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  9. I think that S & D may have hit the nail on the head with the comment that perhaps the summer weather may have also played some part. Like you Sue I'm wondering about how the plant acquired the name. The leaves are darker than other hellebores so that might explain the niger part. Whatever the name though a most fine plant.

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  10. What a lovely set of hellebores. They are out early, mine are too, even my Christmas rose. I'm dreading a hard frost or snow.xxx

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    1. In one way so am I, Dina but in another we need a cold snap to control the garden beasties.

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  11. Hellebores are really beautiful! Never seen them before!

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    1. They provide some welcome flowers at this rime here in the UK, Malar and maybe would dislike your climate.

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  12. I've updated the post with possible explanations for the Hellebore Niger/ Christmas Rose misnomers

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