While watering and tidying up in the greenhouse this morning, something lovely, down in a corner and behind some myrtles and rosemarys, caught my eye for the briefest of moments that made me do a double take. Of course, I think just about anything in the greenhouse is lovely, right down to the dirt, but this was especially so, because it is blooming in these darkest days of winter. Two potted Christmas Rose plants (Helleborus Niger) are vigorously blooming and enjoying this Christmas Season. Not really a rose at all, but a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) it is small extremely hardy evergreen perennial that grows to about 15" outside in a shady place and blooms profusely from late autumn into early winter.
Here in my small greenhouse, there are white flowers tinged in pink, busily blooming on single stalks of dark leathery leaves peaking through the fragrant greenery of surrounding plants wintering on the cool floor where there is still plenty of filtered light and humid air to share. What a Christmas treat! Even though the Season of Advent is done, the Christmas Rose doesn't know this and seems intent to offer up its own gift for Epiphany which is just a few days away.
Christmas Rose also goes by a variety of names like Winter Rose or Snow Rose and even Lenten Rose and is considered an aristocrat of the garden because of it's stately evergreen beauty throughout the year and its ability to bloom during the winter when everything else lies dormant in the gardens. I have seen this plant, time and again in other people's gardens and have always admired it. However, during the summer months when so many other plants are demanding my attention, I pass right by it when I'm in the nurseries making selections that seem to demand more of my attention at those times. However, I was in a nursery this past fall and saw a few left and marked at half price. I couldn't pass up buying two--for the price of one, of course! So, I brought them home and tucked them back in the corner of the greenhouse while packing it with everything that needed to come in for the winter and never really gave them another thought until serendipity crept into the corner of my eye this morning and pointed me in the direction of a "rose 'e're blooming."
This fetching perennial that looks similar to wild rose is a native to southern Europe and came by it's name, I believe, just because it does present its most precious gift of beautiful flowers always around Christmastime. A popular French legend from medieval times tells of a young shepherd girl named Madelon who was tending her own sheep on a cold and wintry night when a band of Wise men and shepherds came by her. They told her they were on their way to visit the newborn Jesus and were taking him priceless gifts to honor him. Madelon went with them but was distraught that she had nothing, not even a simple flower, to give to the Baby Jesus. An Angel, hearing her weeping, appeared and brushed away the snow at her feet to reveal beautiful white flowers blushed with pink where upon Madelon picked them and offered them to Mary at the manger.
In any case, I'm so glad that I now have Christmas Rose for my own garden. Now, I just have to decide on a nice shady place where it can find it's own respite during the hot summer months in order to re-bloom year after year in winter, here. That shouldn't be too hard....after all, in the language of flowers, Christmas Rose means to relieve or take away one's anxiety. So, I guess I'll pull a Scarlet O'Hara and worry about them come early spring when its time to plant.
In the meantime, a friend had written in her Christmas card to us a verse from an old German 15th Century Carol that seems to go along with the subject of Christmas Roses. It goes like this..."Isaiah twas foretold it, the rose I have in mind, with Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind. To show God's love aright, she bore for us a savior, when half spent was the night. Lo, how a rose e'er blooming." It may be referring to a real rose which, when white, does represent the pure innocence of a newborn baby but, today, I like to think of the Christmas Rose e're blooming in my tiny, vibrant greenhouse as a very special floral gift for me during the gray of winter, outside.