"Hellebores and Conifers are hard to beat for winter interest," by the Whistling Gardener

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

If you are looking for a sturdy perennial that will grow in shade or morning sun then look no further than Hellebores. These perennials are tough as nails and rarely need to be divided once they are planted.

Mostly disease free and only occasionally visited by aphids they are easy to grow and non-demanding. I have several clumps in my garden that were planted many years ago and other than cutting them back once a year I do absolutely nothing special to them.

And the big bonus is that they bloom in the fall and winter.

If you don’t have a clue what a Hellebore is then perhaps the terms of Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose might sound more familiar.

The Christmas Rose and all of the new hybrids start blooming as early as November and continue into the new year. The flowers are mostly white but newer hybrids are showing some shades of pink. Some also have marbled foliage.

Lenten Roses start blooming around the first of the year and continue into spring with both single and double flowers in an array of colors all the way from white to black and everything in between except maybe blue. They can be picotee or frilled or freckled or just solid colors and once planted rarely ever need to be divided or transplanted.

For winter interest in the garden or containers they are unsurpassed for long lasting blooms and ease of care. A once a year removal of last year’s foliage is all that is required along with of course cutting off the blooms once they have finished.

This Saturday, November 14, 2015 in the nursery at 10 am Sally Isaiou from Skagit Gardens in Mt. Vernon will share her expertise in combining hellebores with other winter interest plants to create enticing containers for all winter long interest and also share growing tips to help you succeed in your own gardens.

This is a great opportunity to hear information direct from the grower.

As for conifers, they too make fabulous winter interest plants and back on the last week of October I spent this entire column regaling all the attributes of these dependable evergreen plants (look for All Things Coniferous on my website at

Considering that we live in the “Evergreen State” it should be no surprise that conifers (plants with needle-like foliage such as pines and firs and junipers) are very well adapted to our climate.

I think what gardeners sometimes forget is that conifers come in all sizes and even colors and they can anchor a garden composition together in the dead of winter when all the other vegetation has melted away.

Like Hellebores, some conifers are well suited for containers and when combined with perennials, hardy trailing groundcovers and an evergreen grass for accent make a very attractive container planting.

You can learn more about conifers this coming Saturday,  November 14, here at the nursery at 1 pm where Trevor Cameron, CPH will share his passion for this group of plants.

Winter gardens do not have to be bare and boring. By combining evergreen perennials, conifers and deciduous plants that have attractive bark or branching patterns we can continue to enjoy our gardens throughout the winter months.

Come learn all about it Saturday, November 14, 2105, at Sunnuyside Nursery.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at

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