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Hellebore foetidus stripping...

  • Hellebore foetidus stripping...
  • Hellebore foetidus stripping...

Just a couple of weeks ago I posted a reminder about trimming off the old Hellebore leaves from Helleborus orientalis and H. hybridus: now I'm going to present another version of this maintenance option, one that I'm not totally 100% sure about....

This time it relates to the Bear's Claw Hellebore, also known (rather unfairly, I think) as the Stinking Hellebore, proper name Helleborus foetidus. Yes, the foetidus part means “stinking” , although I wouldn't have said the smell of it was that bad, really - would you? Iris foetidus, well yes, that is fairly unpleasant, but the Hellebore?

Anyway, I saw a weird-looking plant in a friend's garden about this time last year, and it turned out to be a perfectly ordinary Stinking Hellebore from which she had stripped every single leaf, leaving just the bare flowering stem with the flowers at the top. It looked quite extraordinary, and at first sight I thought it might be some exotic Euphorbia, but no, it was just common or garden H. foetidus, minus the stem leaves.

So this year, I had a go at it myself: the photo shows a medium-sized clump of these Hellebores, with good strong flowers and rather a lot of leaves. On this plant, unlike Oriental and Hybrid Hellebores, the leaves grow all the way up the flowering stems, so they can easily swamp the flowers of lower stems. Are you ready for some botanical jargon? Brace yourselves - plants which have leaves on their flowering stems are called caulescent, and both Stinking and Corsican Hellebores are caulescent. The Oriental and Hybrid Hellebores, along with the Christmas Rose, H. niger, do not have leaves on the flowering stems, so they are called acaulescent. There, it wasn't so bad, was it?

So with a sharp pair of secateurs, I changed these plants from being caulescent (leaves on flowering stems) to being acaulescent! Well, as you can see in the photo above, I wasn't quite brave enough to take off all the leaves, as the plants were on a rather messy-looking bank which will shortly have a mass of daffodils, but which currently looks a bit drab. So I left some leaves at the top of the group, and just took off every single blackened one, all of which went on the bonfire heap and not the compost heap, as we do with normal Hellebores.

So, what do you think? Does anyone else already do this? Do you think it looks better without the mass of blackish leaves? I'd be interested to hear your opinions!

Comments (3)

  1. Grower

    Angela

    Morning Rachel, I think anything you can do to improve the look of that hellebore is certainly worth trying!! we removed it many years ago from the garden, we only have a small area and each plant has to earn its keep, and there are some beautiful varieties for sale now......I strip the leaves every year from our plants, but not the ones with the variegated leaves.........now as for does it look better, it would look better still removed !! lol

  2. Grower

    Cal

    I think that the hellebore foetidus looks better after you have taken some of the leaves away but stripping it completely would, I feel. alter it's character too much. A good job using a subtle hand leaving a decent sized plant for interest at this time of year.

  3. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    It certainly is one of those plants that pops up everywhere, Angela: I know what you mean about it not earning its keep in a small garden! I certainly wouldn't have it in my own (tiny) garden, but it's ok for filling in difficult areas in larger gardens. I suppose.

    Cal, I love your phrase "using a subtle hand" ! What a perfect expression to describe the difference between intelligent pruning which improves a plant, and heavy-handed pruning which merely chops bits off and makes it a bit smaller!

    And yes, too much leaf removal does change the character of the plant: as I said above, I actually didn't recognise the "stripped" version at first! However, now I'm thinking whether there are any other "ugly" plants that could be improved by some subtle (or not-so-subtle!) pruning... suggestions on a postcard, please!


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