Harvesting hellebores

Plant’s beautiful flowers are worth the effort they require

Hellebores are a large group of winter-flowering perennials.

Hellebores are a large group of winter-flowering perennials.

Your hellebores cost you a fortune, I know. Twenty dollars a piece, most likely. Harvest them? They rarely put up more than four or five flowering stalks, the younger ones even less, and they take years to mature. Harvest what? The flowers. Not only will this give you a fine arrangement, it’s of some benefit to the plant.

But before we get to the harvest: Hellebores are a large group of winter-flowering perennials. Helleborus spp. include the Christmas rose, the Lenten rose and its numerous hybrids and other species.  All bloom early, even in snow. By March, their flowering stalks stand about a foot above the soil. The range of new hybrids astounds – flower colours range from apricot to chartreuse to white to pink, plum, burgundy and black.

Many varieties have flowers that shift colours as they age. And foliage similarly is diverse: silver, silver-veined, matte, glossy, jade, emerald, finely cut or broad-leaved. Hellebores thrive in darkened corners, shady beds and woodland settings. Deer-resistant, drought-tolerant, architectural and evergreen – hellebores are a perfect plant for our region.

And now, with this season’s leaves just rising from the earth, it is the perfect time for pruning the flowers, so that the plant can direct its energy into leaf growth. (If you are hoping the plant might propagate itself, leave your flowers to run to seed. But remember, many are sterile and even if they do make babies, hellebores still take years to bloom, which in part explains their high price.) In any case, most gardeners trim off the spent flowers in late spring once the plant’s new leaves have emerged. I suggest bringing the flowers indoors for a closer look before sending them to the compost.

The trick to using hellebores as a cut flower is conditioning, which in this case means dipping the cut stems into boiling water. A little time consuming, but I guarantee that if you follow these steps you can enjoy hellebores in the house for days without wilting.

First, put a pot of water or a kettle on to boil. (Hellebores are poisonous, so I use an old pot.) Have your snips and a wide-mouthed jar of cold water at the ready. When the water boils, set off outside and cut your chosen stems. Back in the house, nip another inch off the stems and immediately plunge them at an angle into the hot water for 30 seconds, being careful not to steam the blossoms. Then drop them into the jar of cold water. Flower farmers believe that older, ripened flowers (those that have dropped their stamens) last longer in the vase. And speaking of vases: plan ahead so you can cut your stems to length before the hot water treatment. As with any cut flower, strip off any leaves that might sit below the water line.

If you can’t be bothered with conditioning, you can also float individual hellebore blossoms in a bowl. For a plant that often nods shyly alongside a path, you’ll be amazed at the singularity of their beauty.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

Look for the Random Act of Kindness Day colouring contest in Black Press issues Jan. 17. Physical entries can be mailed or dropped off to local Black Press offices. A scanned or photographed entry can be emailed to info@victoriafoundation.bc.ca. Winning entries can get a $50 gift card to Bolen Books and a $100 donation to a charity of their choice from the VIctoria Foundation. (Pixabay)
Colouring contest coming for Kindness Day

Kindness Day colouring contest in partnership with Victoria Foundation

Sidney has moved the remaining parts of its public consultation phase part of the Official Community Plan online. (Black Press Media File)
Sidney moves to an ‘all online engagement’ process for OCP

Staff says OCP charrette scheduled for mid-February

(File photo)
‘Very lucky’: Two passengers, dog escape rollover crash in Saanich unscathed

Vehicle flips on Trans Canada Highway after hitting median, possibly due to ice, firefighter says

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Most Read