Sunday, 28 February 2010

Did you say something about my Hellebore?!

Did you say something about my Hellebore?!  Of course I'm referring to Helleborus foetidus, pictured in my garden today.  I'm not usually confrontational but I think this plant deserves a bit of a helping hand.  

Commonly referred to as the 'Stinking Hellebore' or 'Dungwort' (charming), I'm not entirely sure which common name I dislike most actually.  Either way this plants name does it no favours whatsoever.  On this note, isn't it strange how plants receive their names?  For example there's also a 'Stinking Iris', on which Robert Webber blogged about last week which is a great plant to grow.  I think if that I was in charge I could rename a few plants, although I would probably be guilty of giving many blousy, over bred beasties a bit of a doing down.

As you may have already picked up, I think this plant is great.  Here are a few qualities that make it worthy of a spot in your garden.  It is evergreen, it has a lovely growing habit, it will grow in woodland settings, it will grow in alkaline soils and it is drought tolerant.  Yes, it releases a little scent when you touch or crumple its leaves but it is in no way "stinking".  In fact I held its flowers when photographing it and it left a scent on my hand which was not all that unpleasant.  A fresh, spring foliage scent in fact, which is quite welcomed after a cold Winter.

If you have a difficult spot in the garden that could do with some interest then this may be the plant for you.  I for one adore it and it is a much better grower than many of the popular H. orientalis species.

Now that I've had my unplanned rant, I hope I've inspired you to grow a plant with a rather unpleasant and unnecessary name.  

Do you grow this plant?  Do you have any views on this plant or the names of other plants?


  1. Hey Ryan, I agree, it shouldn't be called stinking. I think it such because if you crush the leaves, they have a skunk-like smell.~~Dee

  2. Hi Ryan, visiting your blog from Rothschild Orchids's. I have grown this beauty in a container for many years, and I love it. It is a very pleasant soft green, and rarely has any unpleasant scent at all.

    Mine did succumb to something after many years, but then, doesn't everything?
    When we get our farm, it will be a winter focal point.

    It did really well in the container, and was frequently stoic through hot summers.


  3. Ryan, I agree with you they are fabulous plants and so welcome at this time of year, the blooms are lovely. I also just posted a pic of one that I was fortunate enough to have been given by a plot holder who was moving last year. It's doing well on the allotment.

  4. Mine has been recently frozen in a solid block of ice, which has now melted, revealing a plant that will have multiple blossoming heads of flowers in two or three weeks (if we aren't buried in another major snow). Helleborus foetidus is one of my favorite plants. And it readily self-seeds. Bear's claw hellebore is another less objectional name.

  5. We have one hellebore and I love it. I really need to get more.

  6. I keep meaning to source a couple of hellebores for the garden, but still haven't got round to it. Perhaps this year.

  7. I agree, this is my favourite hellebore as it still stands tall when others are flattened by the weather. The flowers are also such a lovely shade of green with just a hint of purple around the edges.

  8. Dear Ryan, Although this is not my absolutely favourite hellebore - that place will be forever taken by my near black Helleborus orientalis - I do agree that Helleborus foetidus is extremely garden worthy.

    It grows for me in very poor soil without complaint, remains evergreen and offers wonderful texture to the mixed border from its foliage. It is, as you say, so very unfortunate that it has such an unpleasant name.

    I thought that I had signed up as a 'Follower', my mistake, but now I have made certain [I hope].

  9. They are such fabulous little plants... great winter flowers.

  10. I love H. foetidus and so does Beth Chatto ( I had a good sniff of some yesterday in the park (when no one was looking!) and was desperately trying to think what it smelled like. I rather like the smell and certainly wouldn't describe it as "stinking". I definitely want to put some in my garden when I get around to the planting stage.

  11. Thanks for all your comments

    Jane, it is nice to know that I'm in good company. I'm not sure I would describe the scent as 'acrid' and I even had to sniff a leaf again today at a garden centre just to be sure.

    It's definitely one of my favourite plants and I cannot wait for the unexpected seedlings. Although, saying that they will be expected now?


  12. I love love love Hellebores, bought myself another one yesterday and my Mum one too :-) I posted about them on my blog recently as they have a fab collection of them at a National Trust place near me. Gorgeous gorgeous plants!

  13. I leave one of the flower spikes to seed and evey year I have a a few seedlings in the garden.


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