Yellow being the go-to colour in the spring garden, I’m overjoyed to have a yellow Christmas Rose (Helleborus orientalis) in flower. Yellow hellebores are rare as though the genus belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), which includes the brightest gold in the meadow, Christmas Roses are mostly limited to shades of red, purple and white.
My yellow treasure is ‘Primrose Yellow’, a hybrid of H. orientalis only fairly recently available to gardeners, breeders having long sought this elusive colour.
They have now succeeded triumphantly and there are several on the market in Australia, including a double flowered form and a single with a purple splodge at its centre. Most hellebore species including H. orientalis are herbaceous perennials, growing in clumps that increase outward from the base and thus easily propagated by division.
A few, including the popular Corsican Hellebore (H.corsicus) with glossy, marbled foliage have a different growth habit, with a leafy stem that bears flowers in its second year and then dies.
New shoots will appear but in a crowded garden over a hot summer it’s easy to lose sight of them and in turn the plant. This happened to me recently with a couple of beautiful hybrids, ‘Ivory Prince’ and ‘Penny’s Pink’. I’m keeping an anxious eye on ‘Anna’s Red’ also in flower now, which has a similar growth habit. ‘Primrose Yellow’ being truly herbaceous should be safe until I can divide her in autumn, I hope.
Several frost-hardy perennials that normally flower in winter are late this year, possibly because of the drought. I have a couple of deliciously scented wallflowers, Erysimum (syn. Cheiranthus) mutabilis and E. ‘Bowles’ Mauve’ that are finally coming into their own but they’ve taken their time about it.
Several frost-hardy perennials that normally flower in winter are late this year, possibly because of the drought.
E. mutabilis lives up to its name, with flower clusters that start yellow before maturing to buff, orange and purple, giving a multi-coloured effect in full bloom. ‘Bowles Mauve’ is similar but flowers in different shades of mauve and purple.
Although officially perennials, these wallflowers are better described as sub-shrubs as they each have an intractable woody base that’s impossible to divide. Luckily they’re easily propagated from 15 centimetre stem cuttings taken in November, which is an excellent opportunity to give your plants a good hard prune allowing them to produce new flowering stems over summer.
Hellebore ‘Primrose Yellow’ would be lovely among clumps of ‘Bowles Mauve’ wallflower and the dark purple Algerian iris I. ‘Mary Barnard’ but you need something in front. Polyanthus are great for edging as they’re reliably low. They come in a range of colours and flower through winter and spring. You can then divide them in November to plant out with your wallflower cuttings next March.
Headsup: Post Office Farm Nursery, Ashbourne 3442 (www.postofficefarmnursery.com.au/) offers a wide range of Hellebore species and hybrids at plant fairs and by mail order.
Paul Bangay’s garden at Noojee Lea, 424 Fish Fossil Drive, Canowindra is open Saturday October 6, 11am to 5pm. $20 includes afternoon tea. Garden stalls, lunch, contact email firstname.lastname@example.org/ Profits to Canowindra Hospital Auxiliary.