A Shade Loving, Early Blooming Perennial
Through the years a variety of plants have come to be called “Christmas Rose”; they are all steeped in a legend that dates back centuries. Most frequently, the plant Americans associate with the Christmas Rose legend is the hellebore.
In late winter the first plants to bloom in my garden are the Christmas hellebores – often first appearing when there is still snow on the ground. Their blooms and evergreen foliage brighten the winter garden and offer a hint of the spring to come. Native to much of Europe, hellebores were grown in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia as early as 1793 and today it seems that gardeners can’t get enough of them. Over the past decade, plant breeders have created many new hybrids of the latter blooming Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis). Now they have started to work their magic upon the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger).
The Christmas Rose Legend
When the Magi laid their rich offerings of myrrh, frankincense, and gold, by the bed of the sleeping Christ Child, legend says that a shepherd maiden stood outside the door quietly weeping.
She, too, had sought the Christ Child and desired to bring him gifts. But she had nothing to offer, for she was very poor indeed. She had searched the countryside over for one little flower to bring Him, but she could find neither bloom nor leaf, for the winter had been cold.
And as she stood there weeping, an angel passing saw her sorrow, and stooping, the angel brushed aside the snow at her feet. And there sprang up on the spot a cluster of beautiful winter roses, — waxen with light pink petals.
“Nor myrrh, nor frankincense, nor gold,” said the angel, “is offering more meet for the Christ Child than these pure Christmas Roses.” These the shepherd maiden carries to Jesus, who smiles broadly and touches them, turning them pale pink.
Double Fantasy Christmas Rose Gift Offer
This year we have the brand new double Christmas Rose – ‘Double Fantasy’ that will make a lovely and thoughtful gift. ‘Double Fantasy’ features pure white, ruffled blooms with several rows of petals that look even more like true roses. They “pop” against the evergreen dark green foliage. ‘Double Fantasy’ can be kept in the house and planted in the garden in the spring. It will look lovely under deciduous trees, next to shady patios or courtyard gardens. Be sure to plant your Christmas Rose up close, so you can enjoy its beautiful blooms in mid-winter. ‘Double Fantasy’ provides a pleasant textural diversion in a bed of hostas, or in a mixed border. And, deer do not eat hellebores.
Planting and Care
‘Double Fantasy’ is permanent and easy to grow. It matures into a mound of evergreen leaves ultimately almost three feet wide and 18-24 inches high and lasts for decades. In most North American climates, where the soil freezes, a winter thaw will bring the much appreciated floral display.