About fifteen years ago I began to notice that there were some beautiful dusky pinky-purple flowers blooming in front gardens at this time of year. I had no idea what they were called, and after a bit of research discovered that they were hellebores, and were actually the same thing as the Christmas or Lenten rose. You know how it is that once you've found out what something is you begin to notice it everywhere? Well they certainly did seem to be popular, and I was amazed that these stunning flowers had never featured on my plant-radar before.
They're a member of the buttercup family and their only drawback is that their flowers droop, so you have to bend down to photograph them when they're growing.
They're worth it, though. With an open goblet shape, their petals spread out in a graceful skirt, and they seed themselves very freely around the garden. From four original plants we now have many, and they vary in shade and markings, having cross-pollinated with each other.
The white hellebores have a touch of green about them.
This photo's a little out of focus, but shows a half-open one with its stamens still closed together.
The stamens make the centre of a hellebore spectacular, in shades of greeny-yellow.
Some of the markings on the petals are wonderfully dappled in shades of deep plum and maroon.
They come in an infinite number of shades of dusky pinks and purples, some paler
and some much darker. I plan to buy a very dark hellebore one day - some are almost black and very dramatic.
The beautiful pure white ones really set off their more colourful cousins
But even they have tiny speckles around the centre. There's always a tinge of green about the pink and plum petals, a lovely combination.
I always pick a few blooms and display them floating in water, so that I can appreciate their beautiful centres.
They're such graceful, generous flowers and look as if they been hand-painted.
Now I love hellebores so much I can't imagine life, or my garden, without them.