In The Garden Now….Bear’s Paw Hellebore

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bear’s Foot or Stinking Hellebore
Text and photos 
by Victoria Gilleland

Dozens of hellebore varieties are in bloom right now or soon will be. 

I’ve been waiting all season for one of my favorites to come into its full glory. 

In my world of plants, those named after animals always pique my interest. Bear’s Foot Hellebore is no exception.

I’m very fond of chartreuse flowers. The waxy bell shaped flowers that adorn this compact evergreen plant will stand out in any shade to part shade garden in the area. Plants are typically 2 to 2 ½ feet high and wide with flower clusters carried above the narrow leathery green leaves.

If plant parts are crushed or bruised they may be a bit on the stinky side ...thus the “foetidus” descriptive name. However, I’ve never noticed a strong scent associated with the plant even when flowers, leaves or stems were cut or crushed.

All parts of the plant are toxic so keep children and pets from consuming them.

Bear’s Foot or Stinking Hellebore
Bear’s Foot Hellebore tends to be drought tolerant and easy to grow in Northwest gardens. Even if they’re neglected they seem to persevere. I’ve grown them in pots and in the ground with great success.

Think about where you might grow this plant. Not only does it need to be grown in the right soil and light, but it needs to be placed in a position in the garden where it can be seen and enjoyed from a window or a well-traveled path in the middle of winter.

I have one growing about eight feet from the main entry to our house where it can easily be enjoyed in winter.

With the rising wildlife population in our area I’m always on the lookout for plants that rabbits and deer don’t bother. So far so good with Bear Paw! 

But keep in mind that what was once on the ‘inedible list’ can suddenly appear on the ‘gourmet dining list’ for our animal friends.

‘Bear Paw’ Hellebore is a beautiful evergreen perennial that would surely brighten your garden on some of its darkest days. Enjoy it in a container or in a garden bed.

Botanical Name: Helleborus foetidus

Victoria Gilleland is the owner of Cottage Garden Designs, a Garden Design company specializing in Redesign of Residential Gardens, Garden Consultation and Coaching. She has been designing gardens in the northwest for over 25 years.


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