Hellebores and other early birds.

The little woodland strip at the back of the house is beginning to look really pretty with all the early flowers starting to open.



We feel so lucky to have this bit of wood, which backs onto the road through the village, included in the garden.


The strip of mature oaks, ash and chestnuts stretches across 4 gardens and would you believe, the builder wanted to cut them all down to build the houses here!


The village were up in arms at the thought of all the trees coming down and put a preservation order on them – thank goodness!


The houses were then built facing the other way across the fields with an access road coming up beside the field.


All this means of course that woodland planting was a steep learning curve for me. Coming from Southport on the Lancashire coast my last garden was almost pure sand, what a difference!


Fortunately, just about this time, Beth Chatto wrote her book ” Woodland Garden”, just what I needed, I felt she was there telling me exactly what I needed to plant,  after I had cleared all the brambles away.


Also I found a nursery,  Long Acre Plants,  in Somerset which deals only with plants for shade and boggy areas, again, just what I needed.


Each year more plants and bulbs get added, at this time of year it is the hellebores and snowdrops that are the centre of attention with a few others peeping through.


I keep thinking that I have enough hellebores, but then when I see new ones at the nursery, I think, can anyone have enough hellebores, they are all so beautiful and breeders are coming up with new varieties all the time to tempt us!


How can we help but be seduced by such a gorgeous flower!


Of course, as I have mentioned the hellebores flower at the same time as some of the snowdrops, but I have taken so many photographs of  them so they will have to be in a separate  post. A few other plants are brave enough to flower even though the wind is so very cold.


Spring snowflake or Leucojum vernum is out at the same time as the snowdrops and could easily be mistaken as they are about the same height as the wild snowdrop. Instead of having an inner tube with outer petals, they have all six petals the same size and look like a Tiffany lampshade.

Cardamine pratensis

Cardamine pratensis is spreading nicely under my Daphne. I grow this as ground cover because this is the plant that the orange tip butterfly likes to lay her eggs on! There are lots of flowers out at the moment, the mauve contrasting with the snowdrops near it, must make sure though that it doesn’t swamp the snowdrops!

Daphne bholua

Almost out, this Daphne bholua is in more shade than another which I have, so flowers later. The perfume makes a daily trip to the woodland essential!


Another plant still pumping out its perfume is Hamamellis intermedia pallida. This is now growing into a nice sized bush, it has taken a long time but it has been worth it.


Another snowflake, this time Leucojum aestivum or the summer snowflake!! This always seems to flower far too soon considering its name, it is much taller than the spring snowflake, more the size of a daffodil. There are only a couple of flowers out at the moment but lots of buds almost opening.

Iris reticulata Pauline

Iris reticulata Pauline has recovered from the snow that was dumped on her and is now opening lots more flowers.

Iris reticulata Edward

Iris reticulata Edward is keeping Pauline company on the alpine scree, love this dark blue colour.

Iris unguicularis

Another Iris, this time, unguicularis, in the front border by the drive. This one has produced quite a number of flowers, but I’m still waiting for my plant at the back to join in, so far nothing!


Growing up the wall by the back door is Chaenomeles and this variety flowers on and off all winter as long as the temperature is above freezing. This shrub makes a very useful perching post for the birds waiting to use the feeders.

Cyclamen coum

Various shady places have either Cyclamen hederifolium or C.coum planted. C. coum doesn’t seem to be spreading as quickly as C. hederifolium. Do ants hibernate in the winter, does anyone know, because it is the ants that spread the seed of C. hederifolium and they are making a good job of it, putting them where I would never have considered! Maybe I will have to start saving seed of C.coum to sow myself.

The woodland is a very special place for me, as you can see, in the winter and spring it is full of flowers, the narcissus and snakeshead fritillaries will follow on from the snowdrops and hellebores. It is quieter in the summer, mainly foliage with ferns, hostas and heucheras, with a few foxgloves, then it has a second period when it is a joy to visit, and that is autumn when the acers and hazels put on their show of autumn tints. It has something of interest for 11 months of the year, that’s something that non of my other borders can do!




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22 Responses to Hellebores and other early birds.

  1. This is my absolute favourite time of year. I am lucky enough to enjoy yours with you, and then go home and enjoy it all over again.

    • Pauline says:

      Lucky you Deborah, sitting in the sun reading about hellebores! Yours will be staying nice and snug under their duvet of snow, just waiting for you!

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Lovely woodland inspirations Pauline! Enjoyed seeing you many Hellebores and Iris reticulata Edward is quite a standout!

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Susie, we love our little bit of woodland! When we started planting we never realised how important this area would become. Iris reticulata seem so small and delicate, you wouldn’t think they would want to flower at this time of year, I agree, Edward is a super colour!

  3. What a fabulous selection of hellebores – and so many other lovely plants too! Wonderful to have a stretch of woodland in your garden, I always think woods have a magical atmosphere to them, particularly in Spring and early Summer.

    • Pauline says:

      These days Janet, hellebores have to be very different before I put my hand in my pocket! I too think woodlands are magical places, even if nothing is flowering, the different textures of plants make a lovely tapestry.

  4. Alberto says:

    Pauline your hellebores are breath taking! Unfortunately my trees aren’t large enough to cast some shadow around, on my young woodland garden so I’m always very impressed on how pretty your woodland could be!
    The iris reticulata are very nice too, it’s a shame they usually don’t last very long. That Pauline iris has definitely recovered from the snow!

    • Pauline says:

      Your trees will grow Alberto, gardening is supposed to teach us patience, can you wait 100 yrs, hope you plenty of shade before then! I’m going to try to grow some more Iris reticulata in the woodland. At this time of year there is plenty of sunlight in there and there is a slope at the left hand end so they should have the good drainage that they like, such lovely little flowers.

  5. Christina says:

    You have so many beautiful Hellebores and you photographed them perfectly, not easy to do I know. My garden is too hot for them so I will have to enjoy yours instead, thank you. A woodland garden is a wonderful thing to have especially if it is already mature when you begin. Christina

    • Pauline says:

      Christina, you have to be almost a contortionist to photograph the hellebores don’t you?! Most of the time I just hold the camera underneath and hope for the best!!
      We were lucky, we had about 200 yrs start on the woodland garden, don’t know who planted the trees or why, they were at one side of a farmers field until the houses were built 25 yrs ago, but I’m so glad that someone did, we’re getting the benefit of them now.

  6. Anna says:

    Isn’t it great to be able to grow such shady characters Pauline? I think that woodland plants are my favourites. Do you allow your hellebores to seed? I can imagine that if you do that they must have produced some absolutely beautiful babies.

    • Pauline says:

      Anna, we have so much shade here, I had to learn to love it, never having experienced much of it before! Now however I think woodland plants are my favourites, there are so many really delightful plants that revel in the shade and soil made mostly from leaf mould.
      I used to let my hellebores go to seed but only twice did anything lovely turn up, mostly the seedlings were just single colours and nothing very special. These days I would rather the plant put its energy into making a bigger plant than making lots of seed, so they all get deadheaded I’m afraid!

  7. wellywoman says:

    I do love woodland gardens. there is something quite magical about them. I’m hoping to get some plants from Long Acre, so it’s good to hear you’ve used them. I LOVE the cardamine. That is a real must to get for my shady border.

    • Pauline says:

      WW, I’ve always been very happy with the plants that I’ve bought from Long Acre, so many that you just can’t get from garden centres.
      The cardamine is a lovely plant, but it is now spreading, it’s ok at the moment but I will have to make sure it doesn’t smother any special snowdrops. Mine is in the shade of a huge oak and seems very happy!!

  8. Cathy says:

    Wonderful pictures, as any hellebore photo would be of course! What a lovely selection you have – I feel so sorry for all those who have not got conditions conducive to growing them, and I am patiently waiting for mine.

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks Cathy, we are certainly lucky to have the right conditions for them, but then, I can’t grow anything that has silver leaves and needs excellent drainage!! Hope you soon have lots of lovely hellebores in your woodland!

  9. It is wonderful to have this spring preview when the snow is still flying here. You have an amazing collection of hellebores Pauline! I have only two for far, but hope to add more. My new plants will have to put up with dryer conditions than yours enjoy. I hope that does not mean I will end up being unsuccessful. I love the little spring snowflakes and irises too.

    • Pauline says:

      Jennifer, we had snow yesterday too!! Fortunately it didn’t last long, but for a while the flowers were looking very sorry for themselves! The hellebores and other early flowers certainly make us feel that spring can’t be far away. I don’t think your hellebores will mind being drier than mine, but they are rather greedy feeders, I always give mine a bit of fertiliser when they finish flowering, to build the plant up again for next year.

  10. Your hellebores are gorgeous. I especially like the pink one with the green ring and the anemone flowered cream one. Your post is a preview of all I have to look forward to when the weather finally cooperates here.

    • Pauline says:

      We are still getting bits of snow and hailstones Carolyn, one minute it is white, the next the sun comes out and melts it all. Poor plants just carry on looking gorgeous! Will look forward to all your super photos of your hellebores, I know you have some wonderful varieties.

  11. debsgarden says:

    It breaks my heart when I see a woodland cleared for development. I am glad yours was saved! You have some wonderful woodland flowers. Your hellebores are gorgeous, each one drawing you in to study their interesting details. I have quite a few hellebores which are reseeding like crazy, but you have made me want to plant some to the newer varieties!

    • Pauline says:

      Ours is only a tiny area compared to yours Deb, but yes, thank goodness the village saved it. I think if hellebores seed around they revert to type, you have to make deliberate crosses to get something worthwhile and so many new ones are being produced to tempt us!

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