Merlin Lenten Rose
For weeks in winter, the world is gray, brown, white, beige. Blossoms have become only a memory, and the birds have stopped singing. Finally, one day, something magical happens. Against all odds, a few brave plants open their charming blooms—much to the delight of our flower-starved eyes. Merlin Hellebore is one of those marvelous plants. Before the frost is out of the ground, it is sending up sweet pink flower buds over dark evergreen foliage. The blossoms start out in a pleasing mix of ivory and pink, aging to a deep, dusky rose color. They would be lovely at any time of year, but are incredible in late winter!
In the wild, Hellebores are found primarily in eastern Europe. The most common types are also known as Lenten Roses (though they aren’t related to Roses), because in many areas they bloom around Lent. Another species is called Christmas Rose, because it blooms even earlier. Merlin is a selection with Christmas Rose in its background, along with some other, lesser known, species. It belongs to the Helleborus Gold Collection® (HGC) of German plant breeder Josef Heuger. In his HGC work, Heuger has striven to develop plants with intriguing colors, extended bloom times, and good vigor. Hellebore flowers tend to nod, so another goal has been to produce outward-facing blossoms that make a showier display.
Bring the joy of winter blossoms indoors! Nothing could be cheerier than a collection of Hellebore blooms on the table when it’s frosty outside. Merlin Hellebores are best displayed in a bowl of water. Cut them with just a bit of stem attached and float them face-up like Waterlilies.
How to Grow
Give Merlin Hellebore a shady site where it will receive no direct midday or afternoon sun. The soil should be rich and well-drained for best results. Hellebores like regular water, although they can be surprisingly drought tolerant once established. They are toxic in all their parts, which means that these fantastic woodland plants resist deer and other browsing creatures. Their leathery leaves are evergreen where winters aren’t too severe. If the foliage does become damaged, simply prune out the unsightly leaves. Merlin is cold-hardy to at least -20ºF. Other than supplying a layer of mulch, you need to give it no special protection in cold weather.
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