Hellebores and snowdrops are classic late winter and early spring companions and, as this shot from the garden East Lambrook Manor in Somerset, England, shows they look great together.
East Lambrook Manor is the garden made famous by the pioneering writer and plantsperson Margery Fish, who brought cottage gardening back into fashion. She grew and introduced many fine plants and was especially fond of hellebores and snowdrops. Both have been allowed to self sow all over the garden in the decades since she died; when I was last there some years ago the hellebores were pretty but not special, but choice new snowdrops are still being discovered in the garden.
Allow bees to cross pollinate all the hellebores in their various colours and the resulting seedlings tend to become ever more dull and disappointing, even as the choice parents survive.
Allow snowdrops to do the same and not only does the purity of their colour remain largely untainted, unlike in hellebores, but new and intriguing forms turn up. A number have been sselected and named from amongst the great drifts and clumps of them at East Lambrook in recent years. These include ‘Dodo Norton’, ‘Lambrook Greensleeves’, ‘Margery Fish’, ‘Sir Henry B-C’ and ‘Walter Fish’.
1. Always dead head your hellebores before they seed if you possibly can, and so prevent the appearance of lots of murky shades.
2. Don’t even bother to think about dead heading your snowdrops, although I know a few people do.
3. Look closely amongst your snowdrops to check if any unusual types have sprung up.
4. If you can, visit East Lambrook Manor and admire both hellebores and snowdrops for yourself.
Images © Graham Rice / GardenPhotos.com