Winter’s Rose you would assume, like anyone, was some gorgeous variety of rose bloom. And fair enough, too. But in this case, you would be wrong, much like when people think a ‘peony rose’ is a rose. It is not.
The Winter Rose, or Helleborus, can also be known as a Snow Rose, Lenten Rose, Christmas Rose (more for the Northern Hemisphere as Christmas occurs in winter) and Oracle Rose however it comes from the family Ranunculacea, and has 20 herbaceous and perennial evergreen flowering species. As their name suggests, they tend to flower in late Winter and into Spring.
I love Helleborus, as I find their ‘faces’stunningly beautiful, and the range of colours are to die for. After years of cross breeding and hybridisation, the colour range has been transformed with them available from darker plum shades, burgundy and almost blacks, to vibrant yellows, bright, clean whites and a whole range of pinks and soft greens. You will also find some of the blooms are plain, whilst others are intricately patterned.
They make a gorgeous addition to any garden and tend to favour more shaded spots, underneath the canopies of deciduous trees, with little attention required, and left to go to seed. They flower from late winter to spring, and the blooms last months on the plant. Throughout the autumn months, the plant provides a clumpy green covering. They are also often planted among other plants with complementary colourings where they can grow up throughout creating a wonderfully intricate display.
These days you can get your hands on all the standard varieties; flowers shaped like a cup or bowl, mostly single, with five petals, as well as double-flowered and anemone-centred plants. It is no surprise really that, they are a popular wedding bloom, and fittingly so, have just come into season in time for the starts of wedding season!
I love Helleborus as a cut flower, and certainly have a special spot in my heart having used them in a very dear friends wedding some years ago. Each year as the time approaches and I see all the wonderful ingredients we used begin to appear again and I am reminded of their anniversary and the hoot we had in the Southern Highlands, freezing our socks off, working on the outdoor porch making the arrangements.
The only problem with the Helleborus as a cut flower is that their heads tend to droop rather quickly, so they are best used with other flowers or foliage used to prop them up and support them. Some people also find the age old trick of scolding the base of their stems helpful in extending the vase life.
To scold flowers; simply cut the base, and place about an inch of the flower stem into boiling water for approx 30 secs, remove the stems and place directly into a vase of cold water.
Alternatively, why not cut off their heads and float them in a bowl of water? That way you get to enjoy all the intricacies of the blooms without watching them droop and decay so quickly, and you know what, anybody can make that vase of flowers look good! You’re welcome 😉
When the temperature drops from the gorgeous moderation of Autumn into the deep dark depths of brrrr,….we tend to rug up, and hibernate venturing outdoors a lot less and living out our daily lives within the comforts of our heated homes/offices.
For this reason alone, it is vitally important to dress our homes and bring the outside in with fresh flowers and plants, making our home into the sanctuary we desire.
The great thing about winter is that we can often enjoy longer vase life (as long as the heater isn’t sitting next to the vase!) and immerse ourselves in the fragrance that many winter blooms bring; think hyacinth, johnquils, erlicheers etc.
Some of our favourite winter blooms:
The tulip is a perennial bulb that traditionally flowers from winter- spring. A number of species and many hybrids are grown in gardens or as plants. Tulips typically have 2-6 strap shaped leaves depending on the species, with a single flower arising from the centre. Tulips continue to grow after being cut, and are orientated by the sun. The direction of the growth will change and move as the sun moves throughout the day, resulting in a sometimes wayward display of crazy untamed blooms in a vase. I love this, but some may find it frustrating! 😛
The best way to control this, is to cut them short and keep them in a smaller thinner vase so they appear more upright.
Hellebores are also known as the ‘Winter rose’ or the ‘Christmas rose’ (as they originate in the Northern hemisphere where Christmas takes place within the cooler months) however oddly, they are not related to the Rose at all.
Hellebores are favoured by gardeners as they are frost resistant and evergreen, and of course because they provide a beautiful display throughout winter and spring. The Hellebores are available in a wide variety of colours ranging from the traditional cottage garden variety pure white blooms, through to pink, red flushed, maroons and purple. There is also the ‘Stinking Hellebore’ with is drooping pale pistachio green bell flowers.
Narcissus johnquilla (johnquill/rush daffodil) is a flowering bulb that is native to Spain and Portugal. It has long rush long leaves, hence the name ‘rush daffodil’. It bears up to 5 fragrant heads of flowers, which have been cultivated since the 18th century for its oil, used today in many modern perfumes. They do not have a long vase life, and as they are poisonous to other flowers, it is not recommended that they are mixed with other blooms in a vase, as they will shorten the vase life of those flowers also.
Hyacinths are winter and spring flowering bulb that is characterised by long, narrow leaves that are folded lengthwise. They are a highly perfumed bloom that has flowers growing in dense clusters along the length of the stem. The common hyacinth (Hyacinthus Orientalis) has blooms that open into star shaped flowers, and should not be confused with Muscari Botryoides, The Grape Hyacinth.
Hyacinths are available in a variety of colours including white, cream, lemon, pale pink, hot pink, mauve, violet, blue and green.
Cymbidium orchids slowly begin their season in late Autumn, but are readily available and utilised throughout the winter months, with greater variety available in the colours and size of the blooms. The Cymbidium (or boat orchid) can have a bloom diameter of between 5-10cm, and are available in every colours from white to green, yellowish-green and cream, yellow, brown, pink, red, orange and even black. The blooms last about ten weeks making them a fantastic value cut flower.
Some varieties are known to have a fragrance, but most notable is the fact that Cymbidiums can withstand cold temperatures as low as 7˚ C, even lower for short periods making them a hardy variety of flower for growers.
Even for the most uncreative people, it is easy to decorate your home with Cymbidiums. Use a large torpedo shaped vase and place a simple green monsteria or some doddavine at the base, now place the Cymbidium stem within the vase, completely enclosing the flower spike.
Blushing Bride (Serruria florida) is a species of Protea, endemic to South Africa. It is known as Pride of Franschhoek.
Blushing Bride flowers have papery white floral leaves, surrounding feathery tufts of white to pinkish flowers. Flowers are white/cream or pink. ‘Sugar ‘n’ Spice’ is a well-known variety with pink flowers and deep, rose pink stripes on the white bracts (floral leaves).
With its muted colour palette, it is often a bloom favoured by brides having ceremonies between June- November, and it is believed that the plant received its name because it was traditionally used in bridal bouquets in South Africa.
Blushing Bride grows well in Australia in plantations as the climate is similar to its native South Africa. It also grows well in Israel and the US.
Many varieties of kale and cabbage are grown for their ornamental leaves, which are brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet in the interior of the rosette. Ornamental kale is as edible as any other variety. Kale is a vegetable in the species Brassica Oleracea, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and brussell sprouts.
Kale can be utilised in a variety of way as the blooms are grown in a variety of sizes. Smaller rosettes are ideal for bridal bouquets and buttonholes or smaller vase arrangements. The larger rosettes can be used in grouped frontal arrangements or in eye catching corporate displays.
Be warned! As ornamental kale is a type of cabbage, the water can quickly start to smell so we recommend changing the water daily.
I don’t know many people who don’t love poppies. With their vibrant colour and instant artistic appeal, it is hard to fault them. With colours from white through yellow and orange, to pinks, reds, maroons and deep crimsons. Their tissue like delicate blooms consists of two layers, the outward layer; 2 dark furry sepals (which drop off as the bud opens) and the inner layer; 4 (sometimes 5 or 6) brightly coloured petals. The buds are ‘nodding’ or bent slightly downwards.
Poppies do not like a vase full of water, so an inch or two at the base of the vase is optimal. You will also notice that the base of the stems is darker in colour as they are scolded before sale. If you cut this section of the stem off to display them in a shorter vase, we recommend firstly scolding them again before placing them in a vase.
Wowzers! Who knew winter had so much to offer!? For a person who thrives in summer and relishes the hot sticky humidity that the beginning of the year brings, I am like a fish out of water in these colder months, but, after taking a moment to appreciate all the pretty things I get to play with, I may very well change my mind….