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This is a small genus of about 15 species, but includes numerous cultivars. Hellebores have become a very popular genus in recent years. If they were summer-flowering perhaps this would not have happened, but since they flower from mid-winter onwards they provide colour and interest at a time when they are much are required. The main focus of attention is on the oriental hybrids, but all of the other species also make good garden plants. The flower colour of the species varies from white and green to purple, but the various hybrids exhibit a wider range of colours from white to almost black. Some have spots, others picotee edges and there are an increasing number of double flowers. The oriental hybrids are amongst the easiest to grow providing they are giving a humus-rich soil that does not dry out and a light shade from the hottest sun. The Christmas rose, H. niger, is one of the best known but it rarely flowers before New Year and is not so easy to grow or at least to get the unblemished flowers you see on Christmas cards. Some species, such as H. argutifolius and H. lividus, have particularly striking foliage which is as much of a features as their flowers. All hellebores need protection from slugs and from winter rain to look their best. Grow all species from fresh seed or divisions.

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