It’s always a neck-and-neck contest to see whether it will be the small spring bulbs (snowdrops, snow crocuses and winter aconites) or hellebores (Helleborus spp. and cvs.) that win the race to produce the first flowers of the new gardening season once the witchhazels have finished.
In my garden, the snowdrops won the cup this year, but when the white stuff finally melted, it revealed hellebore blossoms that had already partially opened under a thin, insulating layer of snow.
We often get mail at this time of year asking whether gardeners should remove the leathery overwintering leaves of hellebores, or leave them in place to die down naturally (as with daffodils and tulips). The answer is that it’s really a matter of personal taste. Some gardeners feel that the old foliage offers protection against spring frosts, while others say that the previous season’s leaves detract from the plant’s overall appearance.
You be the judge, here’s the “before snipping” picture of two separate clumps:
And here’s the hellebore on the right, several days later: