With the Christmas season comes tradition. Whether favorite family movies, the annual choosing-of-the-tree, grandma’s sugar cookies or playing a classic Christmas album, December is marked by tradition. While it’s not a month typically associated with gardening, plants certainly have their place in the holiday season, and as you go about your Christmas decorating and gift-giving, it might be time for a new Christmas tradition.
If asked to picture a traditional Christmas flower, most people would probably conjure up images of the classic red poinsettia. Certainly poinsettias are synonymous with the holidays—and for good reason with their festive colors—but there’s a newcomer to the world of Christmas flowers that is quickly gaining popularity for decorating both indoors and out.
Unlike poinsettias, this evergreen perennial will last for more than a single season; in fact, it will bloom around Christmas time for years to come. Its long-lasting white flowers and dark green foliage will blend well with any Christmas décor in your home for a season and then, after the holidays, bring life to an otherwise dreary time of year outdoors.
Of course, I’m speaking of hellebores—but likely not the plants you imagine. In all honesty, I used to dislike hellebores with a passion. Not only did they have unimpressive, often-leggy foliage, their washed-out blossoms hung down, so unless you were at ground level looking up, the show of flowers was mediocre at best.
Recently, plant breeders have focused on improving the foliage and flowering characteristics, and they’ve also developed new strains that bloom at Christmas. ‘Jacob’ and ‘Josef Lemper’ are two of the most impressive varieties; with large, bright white blooms facing outward on strong stems, they’re vastly superior to previous generations of the species.
Hellebores are also incredibly cold-hardy, so whether you choose to plant them in a flowerbed or planter after the holidays (or as soon as you get it home!) you don’t have to worry about cold damaging it as many are hardy as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
For gardeners who want to enjoy color to start the new year, several other great varieties of hellebores will begin to bloom shortly after the holidays. ‘Love Bug,’ with light pink flowers, tops out at less than a foot tall, making an excellent container plant. Another great variety, ‘Wester Flisk’ stands out with finely-textured foliage reminiscent of a laceleaf Japanese maple.
Now, maybe your Christmas decorating doesn’t call for more flowers, or maybe you need something with a little bit more height in your Christmas display. For that, have you considered using lemon cypress? ‘Wilma Goldcrest’ cypress is a popular plant for container gardening during the spring and summer months, but there’s no reason it can’t be enjoyed at Christmas as well.
Its bright lime-green foliage gives off the scent of fresh lemons when brushed, thus the commonly-used name ‘lemon cypress.’ Narrow and upright, this evergreen can even be decorated as a miniature Christmas tree. While it typically prefers more light than is available indoors, it will work well as a table centerpiece or decoration in the house for the season before being transplanted outdoors.
As you decorate your home for Christmas and shop for gifts, embrace tradition, but don’t be afraid to try a new plant this season. For gardeners, half the fun of the hobby is in discovering something new, and you just might find that a visit to Vander Giessen’s this month opens up a whole new world of beautiful plants to enjoy this Christmas and for years to come.