The Outstanding Plant of the Winter Shade Garden

By Published April 21, 2014 Updated October 03, 2022

Welcome to Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens. We are a private research and display botanic garden located near Raleigh, North Carolina (USDA Hardiness Zone 7b). Our retail mail order division allows us to make the best perennials from our trials available to gardeners around the world, some of which were developed here, some from our plant explorations, and others from breeders around the world. Between 1988 and 2010, Plant Delights Nursery introduced over 500 new perennial plants to US horticulture. In 2002, we were honored to be recognized by the American Horticulture Society for our lifetime of work in commercial horticulture. This image gallery is but a sampling of the great perennial plants available for gardeners around the world. We do not carry all plants pictured at any one time, but since our mission is to educate and inspire, we hope these images and the linked articles below will expand your garden horizons and interest. You will find an array of other interesting information and fascinating perennials throughout our website...thank you for taking time to visit.

Not many plants offer critter resistance (deer, rabbit, voles), winter blooms, and evergreen leaves all at the same time. These are three great reasons to consider Hellebores for your shade garden. Also known as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, Helleborus plants flower at various times throughout the winter and early spring when there is little else in bloom. The deer resistance of Helleborus is legendary. Helleborus leaves are poisonous, leathery, somewhat prickly and malodorus...all traits that repel the ravenous deer and other varmints that invade gardens looking to munch on your most expensive plants.
Image of Helleborus x hybridus 'Sun Flare'
Helleborus x hybridus 'Sun Flare'

Once established, Hellebores are extremely tough and will make a beautiful 1.5 foot tall clump of dark green evergreen foliage in the shade garden. In addition to their pretty flowers and deer-proof leaves, Helleborus plants also tolerate dry shade underneath trees quite well. You can fill in those bare spots under your trees where nothing else will grow with a mass planting of Helleborus.

Plant Delights Nursery produces its own line of seed produced hybrid Hellebores and we also carry hellebores from the top Helleborus breeders in the U.S. and around the world. Our collection includes the well known hybrid Hellebores called Helleborus x hybridus which are made from crosses between the species in the Helleborastrum group (H. abruzzicus, H. atrorubens, H. bocconei, H. croaticus, H. cyclophyllus, H. dumetorum, H. hercegovinus, H. istriacus, H. liguricus, H. multifidus, H. occidentalis, H. odorus, H. orientalis, H. purpurascens, H. torquatus and H. viridis). But we also grow and sell the Helleborus species that do not interbreed well with the 'x hybridus group' including H. foetidus, H. argutifolius, H. lividus, H. niger, and H. thibetanus. These out-groups sometimes interbreed with each other to produce hybrid species known as H. x sternii, H. x ericsmithii, H. x nigercors and H. x ballardiae. Our Helleoburus collection here at Plant Delights includes most of the wild species as well as most of the hybrids and we offer many of them for sale too.

PDN is proud to display our incredible selection of Hellebores every February during our winter open house. Drop on by so you can pick out the best colors for your garden. Don't forget to pick up a ranunculus, ruscus, or hardy cyclamen while you are there as we always have plenty of them in full color in February too.

In North Carolina, February is a great time to plant hellebores or other plants. The weather is cool so the plants will not experience much transplant shock and the ground is always workable. Planting early gives your hellebores time to knit into the soil before the stressful summer heat and humidity arrive.

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