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Posts Tagged ‘Corsican Hellebore’

One place I like to on a regular basis is Government House in Victoria. Yes it really is related to the Government, as the Lieutenant Governor of B.C. lives there. The nice thing for gardeners and plant fanatics is that it has extensively planted beds that hold a vast collection of plants. I nipped into to town to see what was coming up in the beds and what looked the best. I always take the same route through the garden when I leave my car. First the path through the towering Camellias which meanders down to the Fountain Pond which was frozen, the ducks looked somewhat out of place walking on the ice. The pond leads to the long Rockland Border that is full of perennials and shrubs.

Government House Driveway

Government House Driveway

This is where I was coming to check out a favorite planting scheme and the star plant of this week: Helleborus argutifolius or Corsican Hellebore.

Favorite Plant combination Along Rockland Border.

Favorite Plant combination Along Rockland Border.

I have been lucky to had a grown this plant for a number of years and was not crazy about it at first. I didn’t appreciate the subtle pale apple green shading of the flowers or the dark green coarsely textured and toothed leaves.The flowers may not be that big but are make up for it by being in clusters and they turn up as they age. The foliage is almost indestructible and looks attractive all year.

The WOW Effect.

The WOW Effect.

That wasn’t until I saw some perfectly grown plants in full sun that I said “WOW” to myself.

The problem is most of the time these plants are treated like other Hellebores and people assume they need to be in a shaded location. They need sun to be their best.This should not come as a shock when you consider that they are called Corsican Hellebores, named after one of the two (Sardinia is the other) islands they are native to. These islands are located in the Mediterranean Sea about 28 miles off the Italian coast. The climate of the islands is hot and dry in the summers with an average of 11 hours of sun during the day, and mild in the winter with a glorious 7 hours of sun time. Temperatures never get near the freezing (0C or 32F) mark even in the coldest weather.  Corsican Hellebores are somewhat tender and are rated at zone 7 to 9 (-10C being the lowest temperature tolerated).

Flowers Opening on January 5, 2009

Flowers Opening on January 5, 2009

To grow their best these plants need full sun here in Victoria as well as sufficient moisture in our annual summer droughts. Any rich soil will do, even that which is a little alkaline does not seem to bother it. The one thing they don’t like is the combination of cold and damp which is what the winters are here, so careful placement is important if one wants a long lived plant. Fortunately if Corsiican Hellebores are fairly happy they will self sow and regenerate on the same spot or close to it. Be careful where you place them.Being that they are from the Ranunculus family, you know they will hate to have their roots disturbed in any way.

In Their Glory, Late January 2007.

In Their Glory, Late January 2007.

And the last question, Why call them the “giants of the hellebores”? This is becuase the grow up to 6ft (180cm) heigh in their antureal habitat. Don’t worry that is not likely, the pictured examples are in the comfortable range of 2-3ft (60-90cm) so easily blend into the garden, preferably near the middle or the back.

Some Useful Links:

all you ever need to know about Corsican Hellebores is here:

http://www.grahamrice.com/hellebore/species/argutifolius/index.html

The islands of Corsica and Sardinia:

http://www.usd.edu/~clehmann/pir/SardCorsica/geography.htm

Government House, Victoria, British Columbia. Canada:

http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/gardens/individual-gardens.htm

I bid you adieu until next week.

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