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Northwest Regional Reports

Winter-Blooming Hellebores for the Northwest

These versatile and multicolored gems begin to brighten up the garden just after fall bloomers have faded

This hellebore catches the light among faded fall leaves. Photo: Steve Aitken

I took my own advice after shooting photos for my last regional report and spent some time walking around the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. I was amazed at the large selection of hellebores growing at that garden and in other areas of the arboretum. Hellebores (Helleborus spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9) will grow in a variety of conditions—from woodland gardens, to bright mixed borders, to sunny dry Mediterranean-inspired gardens. They are very tough and long-lived plants given the right conditions, and they bloom when other plants are in their winter slumber. One thing they all appreciate is neutral-to-alkaline soil. I have seen bags of lime chips sold at nurseries and garden centers to help combat the Pacific Northwest’s typically acidic soils. One method that does the job twice over is using gravel mulch, which helps neutralize the soil and helps with mud…

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