March is the best month to enjoy our many hellebores and daffodils. The cold weather in February has also ensured that the snowdrops will still be putting on a great display for many weeks to come.
The ornamental grasses, once cut back, start to show signs of fresh growth. Ferns have had their old fronds removed to make room for fresh growth, and the old leaves of Epimedium are cut with a scythe or shears before the flower-buds emerge. Willows and dogwoods need a hard pruning every year to encourage the development of fresh stems that will create bright, colourful stems in winter.
The Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, was thought to have magical powers and was planted near the house to keep evil spirits away. All Hellebores are poisonous - they were used in ancient times as a purgative to cure mania.
Most hellebores prefer a sheltered site in semi-shade. However, a few species, such as Hellebobus argutifolius and H. x sternii, require sun. The Corsican hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, produces clusters of pale green, cup-shaped flowers from January to May. It requires a well-drained soil and is ideal in a gravel garden.The Christmas rose H. Niger on the other hand, does not like to dry out and needs a humus-rich, moisture- retentive soil in a shaded and sheltered spot. It does not recover once it dries out.
The Stinking hellebore, Helleborus foetidus, is one of Britain’s two native hellebores. An architectural plant with dark green, fan-shaped leaves and clusters of pale green, bell-shaped flowers, edged with purple. The evergreen foliage smells unpleasant when bruised, hence the name.
The Lenten Rose, Helleborus x hybridus, is easy to grow, hardy and long lived. Those traits along with its abundant, early flowers makes it indispensable for the late-winter and early spring garden, where it makes a perfect companion to snowdrops, primroses and daffodils. The exquisite flowers can be single, double or anemone-centred. There is a wide range of sumptuous colours available, ranging from purest white all the way through to the darkest dark plum, slate grey and almost black.