Known botanically as Helleborus, they are commonly known as Winter Rose, Snow Rose, Lenten Rose, Christmas Rose (more for the Northern Hemisphere) and Oracle Rose. There are around 17 different species to choose from however in this article we will refer to the commonly known and easily grown Helleborus x hybridus which are derived mainly from the H. orientalis species.
Winter Roses are adored for their ornamental diversity, ease of care, evergreen foliage and long blooming winter colour. They look amazing in massed plantings, and become valuable ground covers, especially in dry shady areas. There is a fabulous colour palette to choose from; dark, plum shades, vibrant yellows, bright whites and a whole range of pinks, some blooms are unadorned, some have intricate patterns. The flowers can be single and open, double, frilled, pendent or outward facing, there really is an infinite range from which to pick.
Once you have made your selection, you will need to pick your spot. Winter Roses like sun in winter, and shade in summer, so they thrive in those often hard to fill, partly shaded areas of the garden, and beneath the shade of deciduous trees and shrubs. You will know if they are in too much shade, because you won’t see any flowers, and in too much sun, their leaves will scorch.
Winter Roses grow best throughout Victoria, Tasmania, and the cooler parts of NSW, Qld, WA and SA. They grow pretty much anywhere as long as there isn’t too much humidity, and have absolutely no problem with frost.
You can grow Winter Roses in large pots too, but don’t forget they will need a bit of extra care to look as good as those in the garden. They are relying on you to ensure their water and nutrients needs.
Winter Roses thrive in humus rich, to moderately fertile soils. It is best to avoid sandy soils, or add plenty of rotted compost to your planting hole. When planting your Winter Roses, dig the hole, twice the size of the existing pot, and position your plant where the roots meet the stem, at the soil level as they need a bit of air circulation. Water in, and keep moist whilst establishing, once established they are dry tolerant.
The beauty of Winter Roses, need not stay in the garden, they also make excellent cut flowers, with a long shelf life. While the heads may droop, you can use other flowers to prop them up, or put your vase on a high shelf so you can admire their flowers as they gaze demurely down at you.
By plunging the stems, up to their necks in boiling water, before placing them in a vase, you will further improve their longevity. My mother in law favoured plucking the flowers and floating them in bowls, her winter dining table was rarely without such a beautiful ornament.
At Tesselaar we have a huge variety of Winter Roses in our garden, and they always draw oohs and aahs from visitors, with the flowers lasting for months. We have our Galanthus collection interspersed amongst them, as they like similar conditions, and when the Winter Rose foliage is cut back in late autumn, the bulbs can shine through, then, in spring, the fresh new Winter Rose foliage hides the fading spring bulb leaves. Other bulbs you could use in combination are miniature Daffodils, gorgeous little Squills (Scilla), Cyclamen, Anemones, Chiolodoxa, Leucojums or Crocus.
Winter Roses are also good companions for a wide range of garden plants, and their diverse colour range makes them even more appealing and easy to use. You can create beautiful tapestries of texture and colour with similar shade loving plants such as Epimediums, Solomon’s Seals, ferns, Vincas, Bleeding Hearts, Aquilegias and Hostas.
Deciduous and evergreen shrubs form a beautiful background for Winter Roses. Examples include Hydrangeas, Camellias, Daphnes, Euonymus and Dogwoods just to name a few.
Winter Roses are one of our most popular lines, and rightly so. They have high ornamental value, a long flowering period and can be used easily in a variety of garden situations with not too much effort. They are at home in any garden, and once you have tried them, we think you will find you are never without them!