Christmas rose is not a rose but in fact a hellebore and is in the buttercup family.
The Christmas Rose legend
According to legend a little shepherd girl from Bethlehem followed the other shepherds to the manger where Christ was born, but unlike them she had no gift to offer the baby Jesus. She searched but became upset because she couldn’t find anything suitable. Suddenly she was dazzled by a shaft of light which fell on a clump of pure white flowers. She picked some and laid them carefully at the manger. These were the very first ‘Christmas Roses’ to bloom on earth.
Use in the garden
Hellebores are naturally winter flowering or spring flowering depending on the type and are extremely hardy. They grow well in shade and the white flowered ones appear to glow and brighten up a dull winter border. Helleborus niger is often sold as a Christmas rose but is in fact one of the most temperamental. Helleborus orientalis is far more reliable in our climate and can also seed freely, cross breeding with it’s neighbours. There are a wide range of colours and flower types with several specialist nurseries selling them.
Another interesting point is that Hellebores were used as a defence against the Plague! They suffer from a leaf spot which horticulturists call Hellebore black death…It is good practise to cut off the old leaves to allow the flowers and new leaves to develop.
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