I completely agree with Ryan Lewis of  www.ryansgarden.co.uk/  regarding the garden worthiness of Helleborus foetidus. See his 28 feb post: ‘Did you say something about my hellebore?’

Compared to the more obvious charms of the orientalis hybrids, foetidus unfortunately lacks stage presence. I wonder if the name has held it back, poor thing! Its quieter, greeny yellow flowers are an acquired taste and growing it at all is the mark of more subtle plantsmanship.

While books certainly call it perennial, and not many people comment on this, I find this plant relatively short lived – 2-3 years perhaps. I fancy that it does quite a lot of flowering for its size and almost flowers itself to death. But this is not the problem it might appear, because it does seed around. So once bought never lost!

I do quite like the idea of plants suggesting where they might like to grow, because this is sometimes where you would not have thought of placing them.This plant is renowned for being a shade lover and yet it is growing here on the sunny front of a raised rose bed where it actually gets quite hot. I shall throw more seed around here to capitalize on the idea.

What does more logically do well in this situation, and is very much perennial, is Helleborus corsicus, now argutifolius. Its yellowy green flowers are much larger than its cousin’s. This specimen is just coming into flower now and will shortly be quite dazzling.  Its evergreen, toothed foliage has a profoundly sculptural appeal. (I am apt to cut the previous years leaves off as this year’s emerge, which will be after flowering.)

The old species name gives the game away because of course, given its mediterranean origin, it loves the heat. Its use for me, like the foetidus, is that it sits in front of the leggy stems of old roses, supresses weed and in my garden the slow worms love it. My guess is that they live in the wall and emerge to bask amongst the foliage where it flops across the stones. Therefore they have both sun, cover, a heat reservoir and an instant refuge.

R 

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