To say that I LOVE Hellebores would be an understatement. These flowers are stunners. To be honest, I think part of my reason for loving them so much is that I was told I couldn't grow them. I love those sorts of challenges :) Because I'm so crazy for them I have tried them in many different places in my yard. I was surprised that they seemed to prefer a lot more sun than I would have guessed from the research I'd done. In my yard their sweet spot is in the shade of rose bushes or other East facing beds that have sun in the morning and afternoon shade. These guys take either patience of money (and honestly a bit of both). If you can swing it, buy the biggest plants you can find. (If that's not a problem for you, you should hire me to consult for your flower garden!😉) Hellebores are slow growers and take a couple years of growing before they start producing an abundance of stems. They are drought tolerant but not very heat tolerant. Avoid overwatering and make sure they have shade in the summer. If you grow hellebores you may be tempted to cut the flowers for arrangements. There are lots of complicated processes I've seen for getting them to last when they are young and at their (imho) most beautiful. What I do instead is enjoy them in the garden that way and wait until they have dropped their stamens and other reproductive bits (like the flower above) and then they last for weeks. The dark colors will retain their color when they dry. Hellebores have a long history (like many in their family, the Ranunculaceae) as medicine/poison so don't eat them! They are the first to blooms of the new year and they are well worth adding to your garden.
Why does this question make the song "These are a few of my favorite things" from the Sound of Music start playing in my head? So, what ARE my favorite flowers? The truth is, my favorite is probably whatever took my breath away that day. It changes frequently, however, there are some that I look forward to growing each season because they rate well in the following: 1) they are beautiful 2) they are easy to grow (this may be relative) and 3) they are cut and come again, this is an important characteristic and one I will explain in more detail below. With the list below you could have almost a year of easy blooming flowers!
Narcissus is just a fancy word for what is actually a daffodil. I find it useful as it helps to distinguish these beauties from the flowers most people have seen before at the grocery store. These specialty daffodils have been bred for wild petal counts, soft pastel colors, and soft fragrance. Some of the reasons I love them? They are EASY to grow! If you have a viable bulb you WILL get a beautiful flower - even in areas with critters. Deer don't eat the stems and gophers won't eat the roots. There are two groups of narcissus that are worth understanding. Tazetta narcissus have multiple smallish flowers on a single stem. These must have evolved in warmer areas because they will naturalize in Southern California. What this means is that if you let the foliage brown before cutting it off, you will get future flowers every year. Sweet! There are some lovely flowers in this group. I like the Erlicheer variety. However, the flowers above are not tazetta group narcissus (for more information about the different types, check out this website). They are the ones that really capture my heart. Sadly, these will not come back to flower in subsequent years. They will grow leaves but won't flower again. I don't feel right composting perfectly viable bulbs so I usually offer up my spent bulbs to farming friends in cold climates. This past year I held on to some bulbs and refrigerated them with my tulips. I will report back on how they do this spring.