Lenten roses are so called because their flowers resemble single-flowered roses that bloom during Lent, 40 days before Easter. They are members of the buttercup family.
Pictured is the cultivar I grow, a new hybrid called "Ivory Prince" (Helleborus xhybrida).
The newer cultivar’s 1- to 2-inch flowers have colors from white to almost black. Others might be yellow, red or pink, and some have spotted petals. Other cultivars can produce double-petaled flowers.
In addition to the wider range of colors or double flowers, the newer hybrid’s flowers face upward — not down and bell-like.
They also have stronger foliage and several have silvery-mottled foliage, as does "Ivory Prince." With tissue culture, a laboratory technique of propagating new plants from tiny portions of the parent plant — their main means of propagation — these plants flower sooner and have the characteristics true to their cultivar name.
Hellebores’ foliage is evergreen and divided into seven to nine segments. They are resistant to deer and voles and have no serious pests or problems. But be aware that all parts of Hellebores are poisonous if consumed.
These are one of the easiest perennials to grow as their main requirements are some shade and good soil drainage. If planted in a rich, fertile soil and a slightly alkaline soil, they can tolerate full shade.
After they are established and well-rooted, they require only an occasional watering. The only other maintenance needed is the removal of any winter-damaged stems or leaves before flowering. Clumps can remain for 20 years without dividing.
"Pink Frost," "Winter’s Ghost" and "Onyx Odyssey" (whose petals are black as night) are some good selections.
Lenten roses make excellent floral arrangements. Plant in the shade perennial garden, on shady slopes and in rock gardens. Combine with ferns, hostas, spring ephemerals like bloodroot, Virginia Bluebells, Celandine poppies, snowdrops, sedges, Heucheras and foam flowers.
Or, plant them in the foreground of shrubs that have attractive bark, like the yellow-stemmed dogwood, or those with exfoliating bark like the ninebarks, Physocarpus.
These tough and hardy perennials are readily available and reasonably inexpensive at local nurseries. Every garden has some shade, and a couple of Lenten Hellebores give those areas great interest.
Frederick Law Olmsted: Environmental visionary
Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted famously co-designed New York City’s Central Park with his partner, Calvert Vaux.
On March 19, the Oklahoma Horticultural Society, in conjunction with its annual meeting, presents Kirk R. Brown’s lecture and enactment of the man who changed the landscapes of America.
Along with Central Park, Olmsted is known for his designs for the Biltmore Estates, the Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and the designs of public parks in more than 5,500 American communities. A conservationist, his work included efforts for Niagara Falls and the National Park System. 6:30 p.m., Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 S. Peoria Ave. Free and open to the public. www.ok-hort.org