Hello Hellebores, Harbingers of Spring

One of the first perennials to show off their colours, the Hellebore (Lenten Rose) also provides us with glossy leaves throughout the year. At a March workshop with garden guru Marion Jarvie, she suggested we cut off the old dead leaves of theHellebore now, even with some snow on the ground, to ensure we get the best view of the flowers when they arrive. And that will be all we have to do all season to take care of this hardy plant. It’s important to remember that the flowers of the Hellebore face downward so ideally we plant them to accommodate that. Some of the newer varieties however, such as Hellebore ‘Anna’s Red’, a variety where  red flowers look up instead of typically downward. As well, the plant has mottled foliage to contrast with the dark green of the other varieties.

Here are some photos from my garden in zone 5 Ontario.

Low-maintenance plants for the shade

I recently went to a workshop at the Toronto Botanical Garden only to hear dozens of questions about what to plant in the shade. We thought we would provide some answers. The experts featured in Gardening from a Hammock shared their favourite easy-care perennials with us. Although we edited the book to ensure there were no repetitions, in the early interviews there were many repeat favourites. We share them here in anticipation of a new planting season. Although we are fans of hostas, we are not including any in this blog, because we know they are so obvious; they work well in the  dark shade, dappled shade, and part shade and come in countless sizes and variations.  All the favourites  we feature today were frequently mentioned.


Adiantum Pedatum  ( Maidenhair fern)

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle)

Athyrium niponicum ‘Dictum’ (Japanese painted fern)

Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ (Creeping Japanese sedge)

Corns alternifolia ‘Golden Shadows’ (Golden Shadows pagoda dogwood)

Epimedium (Barrenwort – any and all- my favourite is rubrum – red)

Hakonechloa macro ‘Aureola’ (Golden Japanese forest grass)