Helleborus argutifolius – Corsican Hellebore

Green flowers are a strange concept, often they look like something half finished, waiting for the top coat.  This Helleborus argutifolius, for me, is just the right shade of green, it looks like it is meant to be that colour.  It is one of four caulescent species, that is hellebores with leaves on their flowering stems, as you can see in the photo above.   The genus name argutifolius refers to the sharply toothed leaves, which are both tough and beautiful.  The flowering stems terminate in a cyme of up to 30 pale green flowers which are hauntingly lovely in the low winter light.  It is the tallest hellebore with the potential to reach 5ft in perfect growing conditions which includes sun and neutral to alkaline, well drained soil.  We should consider ourselves extremely lucky that it manages to reaches 3ft in the shady, damp, neutral to acidic winter garden where it is planted.  Compared to other hellebores they are relatively short lived and their performance deteriorates after 2 or 3 years.  Luckily, as they resent division, they are easily replaced by the many seedlings it produces which reach flowering size quickly, sometimes after just a year.  It can be found in the wild on hillsides and in the ravines of Corsica and Sardinia, but also on the coast and in woodland.  It is strange that such a tolerant plant hasn’t found its way onto mainland Europe or one of the other mediterranean islands.  Perhaps it is not very ambitious, a bit of a home bird, you can’t blame it.

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