Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose)
Helleborus orientalis is one of the nicest plants I can think of. Just when you think you can't abide one more day of winter, the shiny green foliage of Helleborus unfurls in the snow, and before you know what hit you, its beautiful freckled blooms open to brighten many days to come, and you don't have to wait until Lent for them either. My Helleborus begins blooming - full force - usually in late January. Helleborus is long-lived, deer resistant, and these perennials become larger and more beautiful each year, and in summer, I am constantly amazed at how drought resistant they are. Growing from 12 to 15 inches tall and a spread at least twice that, they are perfect for shade and woodland gardens and complement Daffodils, Trillium, native Columbine, and just about any other spring-blooming flower I can think of. Be sure to look for new seedlings every spring hidden under the large leaves. Helleborus readily drops its seeds and, although it takes a few years from seed to bloom (usually about four), it's well worth the wait. Oh, and one more thing: they make some of the most beautiful pressed flowers I've ever laid eyes on. These are seed grown, so colors are mixed, but any color of Helleborus in the garden is an asset. Well-drained soil, shade/partial shade. One more observation: Hybrids come and go, and there are some dazzling new colors of Helleborus popping up all the time, but to me, nothing beats these soft, natural colors that never go out of style. Zones 5-8. Quarts.