It is, of course, the Christmas rose, the perennial whose beauty is further enhanced by a legend that is as delightful as the plant.
We are told that when the Three Wise Men traveled to Bethlehem, they came across a young girl tending her sheep.
When the shepherdess named Madelon heard the story of the Christ Child, she was heartbroken because she didn’t have a gift.
But an angel heard Madelon’s sobs, and glistening white Christmas roses suddenly appeared where her tears fell to the ground.
Madelon then took a bouquet to the manger, and when the fingers of Jesus touched the flowers, the petals became flushed with pink.
Christmas Rose (Helleborus Niger)
The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) is not a rose despite its name. It belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and is native to Europe.
An improved variety, Helleborus niger ‘Altifolius,’ is available. This variety begins flowering in late fall and produces blossoms intermittently until mid-spring.
The lovely five-petaled flowers are 2″ to 3″ inches across with a center of golden stamens.
Strong 6- to 8-inch stems bear masses of blooms above the low-growing, attractive foliage.
Even when the snow is on the ground, it takes only a few mild days to bring out the glacier-white blossoms.
Hardy and vigorous, the Christmas rose is an easy plant to grow to provide the home gardener with a few cultural requirements.
How To Plant A Christmas Rose
The first of these is the selection of a planting site.
The Christmas rose needs full winter sun but protection from the hot summer sun.
Therefore a favorable place for roses to grow is at the edge of an evergreen or shrub border or in a shaded foundation planted on the south, west, or north side of a house.
However, this perennial should not be moved once planted.
Other than location, the principal consideration is the preparation of soil.
The roots, which are heavy feeders, prefer well-drained loamy soil.
So dig down at least 18” inches and work into the soil a liberal amount of peat moss, compost, or well-aged cow manure.
Add bone meal and ground limestone; water well, and leave the plant alone.
44659 by Charles R. Perkins