Winter's Hope ~ by Author Marj Ivancic

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The ground is frozen. The soil is pulled into stalagmite-like formations that crunch beneath my boots as I make a tour of the garden. It’s late January. The perennials are in hiding under a blanket of frost-crusted leaves, waiting for warmer weather.

But I’m not looking for those fair-weather beauties.

I’m here for the herald of hope—the Lenten Rose.

With its evergreen foliage and blossoms that appear while the days
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are still short and dark, this plant is a reminder that not all has succumbed to winter’s death. Not all slumber in wait of spring.

One legends says that an angel brought forth the plant from the ground where the tear of a young girl who had no gift to offer at the Christ Child’s manger fell.

And yet for all the promise its presence in the garden brings, the Lenten Rose is quite deadly.

Its official name, Helleborus, is a mashup of the Greek words meaning “to injure” and “food.” Consuming any part of it—roots, leaves, stems—can cause vomiting, swelling of tongue and throat, and even cardiac arrest. And not just for humans! Cats, dogs, and even horses can fall victim to its poison. Luckily, clever and caring Mother Nature imbued this plant with a terrible taste, which usually serves as a preventative against accidental consumption in deadly amounts.

But its toxicity didn’t deter the ancient Greens from using it to “cure madness” and to clear out intestinal parasites. Witches were (are?) said to use it to curse fields and in potions to give them flight. And walking through its powder (either in the air or on the ground) has been said to render one invisible.

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I’m not sure I would risk death for a change to fly or be invisible, but I do enjoy seeing the Hellebore blossoms on a cold, grey day. I like the plant’s tenacity, its feistiness. Its refusal to wait for a “good day” to bloom and be happy. We, as human, too often wait. We look forward or backward for the good times, instead of seizing this minute, this second as our moment of joy.


  1. I had never heard of the helleborus referred to as the Lenten Rose. These flowers are beautiful and what joy they bring! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Interesting! Thanks for sharing, Marj.

  3. My mother had a Lenten rose that she cherished, which was very dark purple. She always went to check on it to make sure it was blooming. I think it reminded her that gardening season was coming, which was her greatest joy.

  4. I've never heard of the Lenten Rose. Thanks for sharing.


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