In Love With Hellebores

How do I love thee, let me count the ways…*, so goes the perfect phrases of true love’s expression written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In late winter, it is the blooming hellebores, Helleborus orientalis, that reach into the depth of my soul to sear it with happiness.

The seedlings from the original three plants, a pink with no spots, a white with freckles and a darker reddish/pink with spotting have procreated in Nature’s magnificent design to produce color, petal and freckle variation.

Each plant is slightly different from the next, like the configuration of human fingerprints. Such intrinsic beauty is nearly beyond comprehension.

When most of the surrounding scene is bleak and bare of color, the nodding umbrellas offer respite and repast to the wandering honeybees in search of nourishment.

Seeing the petals open to offer their innocence unselfishly to pollen collectors,…

….Seeing the centers swell as seed pods form,….

….Then seeing those seeds germinate and the seedlings grow to become flowering citizens, gives meaning and helps with understanding the order of the Universe.


*”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”
(Sonnet number forty-three)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The forty-four poems that became Sonnets from the Portuguese were written by the future Mrs. Browning between 1845 and 1846 while she was being courted by Robert Browning. They were first published in 1850 in her Poems with the 1856 edition containing most of the desired revisions and corrections.


Hungering for more Hellebore glamour shots? Here are a couple more fan magazine posts about them:


Hellebores On Parade


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23 Responses to In Love With Hellebores

  1. Your Hellebores and photos thereof are absolutely beautiful!

    Hi Christine, thanks so much. I am glad you enjoyed them.

  2. Really lovely photos of one of my favorite plants and poets (Robert Browning is in my family lineage)! Thanks for adding some beauty to my Monday morning!

    Hi Karin, thanks. Browning, and his wife, are ancestors of which to be rightly proud!

  3. I can see why you love these…they are absolutely exquisite…the colors and the way you captured them is like a faire garden and I can see why your blog is named such….the Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem is one of my favorites as well…

    Hi Donna, thanks. The way the hellebores have spread themselves has certainly added to the faireness here. I love poetry of all genres, but this stands high on my list of favorites as well.

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    My hellebores are blooming now too. They are the most cheerful sight this time of year. Amazing how yours are reproducing changlings.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I am so glad you have some of these cheerful bloomers, too. Time of year makes all the difference, doesn’t it? With all the babies covering the ground under every flowering plant, I wonder about the variations contained within them. So fun.

  5. Julie says:

    Hellebores are my winter sanity savers…and yours are spectacular! I never thought I would feel such affection for a plant, but with our incredibly shady yard–they have become one of my favorite plants.

    What a lovely post to begin a Monday! Thank you for sharing.

    Hi Julie, thanks. Sometimes we don’t appreciate flowering plants that are so easy and so beautiful. That they bloom in winter makes them even more special. That they have reproduced in such numbers here is incredible and brings me nearly to tears with joy.

  6. Randy says:


    I love those picotee hellebores of yours especailly the white one. Looks like your having a great year for them. Our bees just love our hellebore patch. Meg and I went to the Pine Knot Farm Hellebore Festival on Saturday. Promised we’d only get 2-3 new ones, got 7 instead. I posted Pine Knot Farm’s gardens best of the best to my site on my last post.

    Hi Randy, thanks for stopping by. I will check out your post about Pine Knot. Even though I have so many hellebores, I have to stop and look at the ones offered at nurseries! Last year I did buy a double, hoping to get that trait into the gene pool. It is struggling and seems like the buds were damaged by the cold snap. Maybe next year will be better. But I am not complaining.

  7. Carol says:

    Frances, I remember when I first met you in person, you had a bag full of hellebore seedlings. You do love them!

    Hi Carol, thanks for the memories! I hope some of those shared hellebores that I took to Austin are now flowering in a garden somewhere.

  8. michaele says:

    All three posts are a real treat…your photos never cease to amaze and enchant!. Seeing the great variety in the patterns and colorations of your Hellebores makes me realize that I should be more conscientious about moving some of my seedlings to new territory so they can develop without competition from their elders. Maybe the transplanting task will be put on today’s to do list. The robustness of this year’s crop of winter weeds has been very distracting and it seems I am dealing with that chore way too much.
    Your last picture where you did a little artistic enhancement is stunning…worthy of being enlarged, framed and hung on the wall.

    Thanks Michaele, your kind words are very much appreciated. I do think it is a good idea to move the babies away from the mother plant. You might be more likely to get more variation in offspring that way in the future. If you get those hellebores to colonize an area, there won’t be any bare soil for winter weeds. Of course then all you will have are hellebores…

  9. sequoiagardens says:

    One of your great posts, Frances! How I share your sentiments – including your passion for EBB… Your photos are magnificent. I have a few neglected hellebores. (They are scarce in South Africa, although of late a specialist nursery has been established in Johannesburg.) I have been meaning – and plenty of fuss from the north at present is chivvying me on – to move them to where they will feature more prominently, and to buy some more. Thanks for the kick in the butt! 😉 Jack

    Hi Jack, thanks so much. I love all poetry, but her words sing the high notes to my soul. Good for you being able to grow the hellebores over there, and good luck with moving them. I have read that they don’t like to be moved, but of course I have moved them, even larger ones, with good results.

  10. You do have gorgeous hellebores.

    Hi Kathy, thanks. This has been an especially good year for them. Many more of the babies have reached blooming size. I love the variation in them.

  11. Pearl says:

    Simply beautiful! Mine won’t be blooming for a few weeks yet but I sure enjoy looking at others while I wait.
    I only have a few of the older species, but this is the year I plan on getting some of the newer ones. They are not as readily available in my area so I’m hoping I can find some!

    Hi Pearl, thanks for visiting. Mine are mostly the older ones, just species, bought before the breeders decided to give them fancy names. They are fine for my garden, but I did buy a double last year. It looks pitiful.

  12. Christina says:

    Frances, your hellebores are incredible pretty and it is not difficult to understand why you are so in love with them! To me the ones with the freckles are most appealing, but all are lovely. Your photography is exceptional! Thanks for a cheerful post received on a very gray gloomy California morning!

    Hi Christina, thanks a lot for those kind words. I like the freckles too, but then look at the purity of the unspotted and think they might be the prettiest. It is impossible to pick a favorite, I love them all.

  13. Wonderful pics. My neighbor has a beauty that creeps through the fence to visit every year!!

    Hi Jenn, thanks. Lucky you! Maybe that guest will drop some seeds on your property one of these years! The babies look like little green spoons.

  14. Dee says:

    I do love them too. So very much. Two of my varieties I planted last fall are blooming. They are scrumptious.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks. The hellebores are quite lovable! Hard to beat the time of bloom, really. Anything blooming in winter has to be welcome.

  15. Gail says:

    I love them, too. Love, love, love the many faces they can have and their sweet little offspring. xoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks. Seeing the different colors and traits like pointed or rounded petals is fun and makes me so happy.

  16. Betty says:

    Frances, your macro shots are incredible. May I ask what camera and lens do you use for them?

    Hi Betty, thanks. I have to admit to being a point and shoot gal on auto function. My camera does all the work, although I have learned when the best lighting, etc. is in my garden. The camera is a Canon Power Shot A720 IS. I also have a Canon Power Shot SX1 IS that has a 20x zoom, also used on auto.

  17. Gorgeous shots Frances. I’ve become so smitten with these flowers, that I finally caved and bought Hellebore ‘Tutu’ a couple of weeks ago. I’ve never grown them here before, but was rather jealous seeing them in everyone else’s garden! Besides, if the bees like them…then so do I!

    Hi CV, thanks. I am glad you finally succumbed to the love of hellebores! May Tutu give you many offspring in years to come. The bees sing a chorus around the ones here, the hillside is alive with buzzing.

  18. Frances I should be tired of looking at hellebores by now but I’m not. Stunning photos!

    Hi Janet, thanks. I am glad you aren’t tired of the hellebores, they will continue blooming for several more months here, but will be secondary players rather than the stars as the rest of the garden wakes up.

  19. Lyn says:

    I totally agree: Hellebores rule! Like you, I am always astonished and grateful to see the variety in the self-sown seedlings. I have never seen one that I didn’t like, and they all co ordinate together, too. How many plants can you say that about?

    Hi Lyn, thanks. The many colors do blend so well, now that you mention it, especially with the yellow daffodils that bloom at the same time. It is a combination that I adore.

  20. Absolutely stunning! I will finally have to invest in some hellebores this year.

    Hi College Gardener, thanks so much. It is a wise investment, those hellebores. I remember thinking how expensive that first plant was, and sort of resented spending the money on not that showy a flower. Boy, was I wrong about that!

  21. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Oh, how I wish they would grow like that here! I’ve got one in a pot in the courtyard but I hold no hopes it will oversummer for me!

    Hi Cindy, thanks for visiting. The original hellebore, big mama was planted in my Texas garden. It was dug up as part of the Noah’s Ark of plants that came to live with us in Tennessee. Maybe it wasn’t in the ground long enough to see if it would actually grow and flower in that heat and humidity.

  22. Les says:

    There is something magical, maybe even pagan, about hellebores. My seedlings are showing a great deal of adversity as well.

    Hi Les, I am not sure about any religious significance to the hellebores,HA, but agree, they are full of magic. Life itself is magical, isn’t it?

  23. Well, I didn’t find the story of the new place, but I did find this! I love hellebores, too! I hope the ones I have start having lots of blooms like the ones I’m seeing on others’ blogs.

    Where is your new place?

    Hi Sue, thanks. Here is the link to the new place, it is in Western North Carolina. Starting With Wildflowers. I am so glad you have hellebores, too. Sometimes it seems like they take forever to get to blooming size, and it does take two years for the seeds to germinate, two cycles of winter.

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