Living up to its name
I've always thought that Helleborus Niger - the Christmas Rose was inappropriately named on several counts. It's not black (niger) It's not a Rose or even from the rose family Despite featuring in many Christmas cards - it doesn't Flower at Christmas. This year it is living up to the Christmas handle and as in many other gardens ours is in full flower. Some flowers have even already gone over and it is a pity soil has splashed some of the flowers but the plant has flowered better than any previous year and avoided slug devastation so we can't have everything. The other hellebores are also beginning to flower. Early flowering of plants has been put down to mild weather but is it more complicated than that. Plants can be artificially triggered into bloom by changing the light levels to simulate different day lengths and they also respond to fluctuations in temperature. So maybe the early flowering is more complicated than it simply being in response to the mild winter. Apparently the origin of the name Christmas Rose comes from a legend whereby a young shepherdess was weeping as she had no gift to offer baby Jesus. As her tears hit the snowy ground they changed to Pure White Flowers. An angel appeared and told her there was no better gift for the baby than the pure white flowers that sprung from tears of love and devotion. The best answer I can find for the reference to black is that it is because the roots are dark but I don't intend to dig on up the find out. More references to the history of hellebore niger can be read here.
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