Plant of the Week: Corsican hellebore

Hellebores are among the first plants to bloom in spring. On the High Line, our species of choice is Helleborus argutifolius, or the Corsican hellebore. The species is from Europe and Asia, and is suitable for growing zones 5a-8a in the United States. It prefers the dappled light or shade of a woodland garden- conditions similar to our Chelsea Thicket. Soil should be moist but well-drained, and neutral-alkaline pH conditions. Blooming begins in February and lasts until April. Trim back dead leaves or old growth to make way for new foliage in the spring.

The flower of the helleborus genus are unusual. Helleborus argutifolius features pale green, cup-shaped flowers. Home gardeners most often plant hellebore hybrids, and you can find the plant in numerous colors; some a single color, others speckled, still others with different colored veins. The Corsican hellebore is a "caulescent" species, having stems with leaves but no basal leaves. Other species of hellebores, such as Helleborus orientalis and Helleborus niger, are acaulescent, meaning the plants have no stem and have basal leaves only. The leaves are leathery with toothy edges.

There are two important things to know about Helleborus argutifolius. First, all parts of the plant are poisonous, so beware if you have extra-curious pets or children. Second, many of our upstate readers will be pleased to know that due to its toxicity, this plant is also deer-resistant. This attribute, along with its early and unique blooms, make Helleborus argutifolius a wonderful pick for a woodland space or shady home garden.

PLANTING TIP:

Helleborus argutifolius is said to be fairly easy to grow and takes off once established. Ensure your chosen space has optimal light and soil conditions, or you will not find this to be true.

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT:

The Chelsea Thicket, on the High Line between West 21st and West 22nd Streets

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

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