“She’s a tough, old girl.” For me this phrase defines some of the Suffolk ladies I grew up to admire. They are strong but kind. They speak sense in a straight forward way. They do not fuss about their appearance but they are always neat and tidy. They usually survived the war with a stoic attitude and a make-do-and-mend ethos. Many of them have lived into their eighties and nineties and still never grumble. These are the type of people for whom our society has great affection and respect. If there were to be a plant that could embody their characteristics I think it should be the Helleborus.
Hellebores are resilient and beautiful
The hellebore grows in the shade and is a woodland plant. It does not feel the need to be in the centre of the border shouting about its beauty. Unlike some garden perennials, it can thrive on very little while it is under trees and can make its home in most soils. It is a resilient plant with leathery leaves. It is rhizomatous, so spreads by putting roots and shoots out underground and, once established, there is no stopping it. Stoop a moment and lift its drooping head and there, in your sight, is an exquisite flower. There are so many varieties of Hellebore varying from lime green, cream, white, pale pink to deep purple. Yet they all have the power to touch you with their demure beauty.
Helleborus is known as the Christmas rose
Helleborus is commonly known as the Christmas rose and how true that is. Just like the rose, it has the power to make us feel good. Usually flowering at Christmas, it continues to bloom right through January and February too. These stark, winter months are often times when I personally feel deprived of colour and light. The hellebores become like saviours for me. They delight me with their subtle flowers.
What is the symbolism of the Helleborus for us?
We can be resilient like the Helleborus. During this winter we are facing yet more lockdown challenges including home schooling, working from home, loneliness and being frightened of contracting, or spreading a potentially fatal disease. So this plant is here reminding us of our own inner beauty and that there is strength to be found in unlikely places. It is amazing what we can do. We are a product of nature just like the hellebore. We too can flower in the shade and in dark times. We are resilient survivors. Just like those ladies in the past, we are coping with a type of war and, just like the Helleborus, we can still flower.
The Flower Writer