I know people who used to call these gorgeous flowers "helluva bores." They're hellebores, of course, Lenten roses or Christmas roses, and you'll see a lot of them at the show. Which is a good thing. They're a fantastic plant. They bloom for weeks in winter, stay green, spread easily and even make an interesting cut flower. They're attractive out of season, and they come in all sorts of colors, even black.
There's a lot of hybridizing going on, but so far, the colors are subtle, not loud, as seems to be the trend with perennials. And for all you folks with deer problems, hellebores are truly deer-resistant. It's too bad they aren't better known outside of the inner circle of garden writers and enthusiasts. How come the independent garden centers don't hop right on this?
I've been interviewing plant breeders and marketers of new introductions this week for a story down the road. To a person, they fault the trade for not educating consumers about the many choices out there, hellebores included. This topic also came up in interviews for the impatiens story I did recently. What to plant instead of the annual impatiens, Impatiens walleriana, which has been decimated over the past couple of years by downy mildew. (Interestingly, I did see impatiens at the flower show - but not much.)
Many gardeners are going to be caught flat-footed this spring when they can't buy - or are advised not to buy - their usual contingent of impatiens. Opportunity's knocking, folks. There are lots of alternatives out there, and more than a few horticultural types are secretly glad the ubiquitous impatiens is cooked.
Hellebores aren't a summer plant, though you'll find the occasional testimony online to that effect. But they are a winner for winter, right into spring. Look for them at the show. And be sure to take notes.