All hail Helleborus niger leaves!

Back at the start of 2014, when my love of gardening ignited and shot off like an uncontrollable rocket, I was taken with the flowers of a hybrid hellebore (“Ivory Prince”) in our local garden centre. It was twenty quid, but I nabbed it. Little did I know my new exotic wonder was actually a common and well known plant. When its large scaley, lizard like compound leaves emerged, it was love.

Last summer I picked up three young Helleborus niger plants from the Clapham Common Fayre, grown by an amateur. Two have survived and thrived. The pure white flowers, beautiful – but oh the leaves!

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This ginormous, 14″ diameter leaf I had to remove today with possible signs of our garden’s first black spot infection. But look at it! We often pore over tropical leaves in botanical gardens, however the humble Helleborus niger I believe easily competes with the most eyecatching of them.

I believe it is compound palmate, with lots of leaflets on one petiole, it splits in two to form the V shape, with the leaflets (here eleven of them) branching off. If this type of leaf has a different name, please let me know 🙂

You can see the underside below, thick, strong with incredible architecture, symmetrical and speckled. Reminding me of the truly incredible Titan arum plant.

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These leaves are generally so tough they last a year or more.

People talk about Hellebores for the flowers, and while I too do look forward to those giant white disk spectacles, I have to say I love their leaves that little bit more. They bring something unique to borders alongside flowers.

What a magical plant. I can’t imagine our garden without them and have added another two cultivars to our Hellebore collection.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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