Hellebore – Move over Hosta …
Don’t say we didn’t warn you – pay close attention to this group! There is an explosion in availability and interest for all things Hellebore now and there will be for years to come.
Remember when Hosta suddenly had so many wonderful and amazing varieties you were greeted by signs at your local garden centre welcoming you to “Hosta World”? Long gone were the days of the solitary bench stuck over in the shady corner.
Well the same explosion of interest is happening with Hellebores. Gardeners who are “in-the-know” already appreciate Hellebores, particularly hybrid types known as Lenten Roses. These were chosen as the Perennial Plant of the Year back in 2005, which actually put them on the map for countless gardeners across the continent.
Where to plant?
We highly recommend planting Hellebores where you will be able to admire them in early spring before anything else in your garden wakes up – perhaps somewhere partially shaded along the walkway leading to your front door?
It’s time …
So because of the buzz in the gardening magazines and gardening shows (and of course this article) … it’s the perfect time of year for “Hellebore first-timers” to purchase one or more of these beauties or “collectors” to add to their Hellebore collection. Timing couldn’t be better – availability and prices are excellent!
Out of the west …
In Southern Ontario and on the prairies, the garden centres are still weeks away from stocking up on perennials, but it’s a different matter in BC’s Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and down the coast Seattle way. Our BC nursery reports lots of colour in their coldframes, particularly Hellebores. They are already being shipped out to the stores so hurry in – don’t be disappointed.
Varieties: ‘Berry Swirl’, ‘Cherry Blossom’, ‘Golden Lotus’, ‘Honeyhill Joy’, ‘Ivory Prince’ (limited quantities), niger ‘Praecox’, ‘Onyx Odyssey’ (limited quantities), ‘Peppermint Ice’ (limited quantities), ‘Red Racer’, ‘Snow Love’ and ‘Vancouver Medallion’. A simple click on the name will take you to a picture and description.
The BC nursery sells/ships in Canada – the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and in the USA – the Pacific Northwest and the Western Mountain States.
Out of the east …
The Ontario nursery also has beautiful Hellebore selections available and garden centres will be ordering them in as spring approaches (within the next few weeks). Call ahead to your favourite garden centre to see if they’re available or just drop in to say ‘hi’ and celebrate the coming of spring … Varieties available to be shipped from Ontario: ‘Berry Swirl’, ‘Golden Lotus’, ‘Honeyhill Joy’, ‘Ivory Prince’, ‘Onyx Odyssey’ and ‘Peppermint Ice’. Again, a simple click on the name will take you to a picture and description.
The Ontario nursery sells/ships in Canada – the province of Ontario and other provinces to the east under special conditions open to garden centres and in the USA – the Northeast and Great Lakes Region.
Remember, Hellebores are very easy to please, last for years and always put on a spectacular late winter to spring display, depending on where you live. These are shade-lovers that have handsome foliage all season long after the flowers are faded and gone. They won’t disappoint.
All you ever wanted to know about Helleborus … Additional information for plant geeks!
For years the main way to propagate Helleborus was by seed. Divisions were possible but really expensive and slow. Once in a while one would see a slide presentation from a Hellebore breeder featuring all of their stunning crosses. There were singles, doubles, white, green, pink, blue and black ones, such kinds as we had never seen before. Too bad we couldn’t get them! Seed strains of Lenten Roses began to appear. Early and important breeders such as the late Elizabeth Strangman and John Massey of the UK laid the groundwork for further breeding right across the globe. Everybody and their dog began to offer seed mixtures from hand crosses. We’ve tried a host of them and yes, some were a lot better than others. We still offer some of these seed-produced mixtures because of the wide range of shades that appear – and also because of their lower price.
The true species and botanical forms of Helleborus are, of course, propagated by seeds and most likely always will be. Demand for these is pretty much limited to serious collectors with the exception of a few popular types such as H. argutifolius, H. foetidus. Good old H. niger a.k.a. the Christmas Rose (blooming anywhere from Christmas through to Easter depending on your climate) remains a lovely, classic garden plant, with hybrids such as H. niger ‘Praecox’ (see listed above) offering all the beauty with extra vigour.
Hybrid Helleborus are the result of careful selection and hybridization and are being produced in record numbers using modern propagation techniques such as tissue culture. This allows for the production of large numbers of excellent hybrids, though still at significant cost. Some examples are:
- H. X sternii – a hybrid of H. lividus and H. argutifolius
- H. x ericsmithii – a hybrid of H. sternii and H. niger
- H. x nigercors – a hybrid of H. argutifolius and H. niger
- H. x ballardiae – a hybrid of H. lividus and H. niger
Helleborus x nigercors ‘Honeyhill Joy’ from Honeyhill Farms is a classic example of the H. argutifolius and H. niger cross. This hybrid forms a low evergreen clump of shiny blue-tinged leaves. In late winter and early spring, stems rise bearing masses of large out-facing, cream-centered, white blooms that have a green tinge as they age. Excellent mid-winter or early spring display – lots of flower power.
These hybrids offer the enthusiast considerable variety but consider yourselves warned; interest can turn to addiction in short order. They’re easy to grow and relatively care free. Click here for some of the beautiful hybrids listed on our website … http://www.perennials.com/results.html?findplant=helleborus&searchbutton.x=17&searchbutton.y=18
New Generation Seeds
Breeders have come a long way with Lenten Roses from seed, and there are great things are happening. Jelitto Seeds of Germany launched their Lady Series a few years back, and that was a real breakthrough. Another breakthrough was the Winter Jewels™ Series of double Lenten Roses, strains bred by the extraordinary efforts of Marietta O’Byrne in Oregon. Since then the Winter Thrillers™ Series has been introduced to North American by Walters Gardens and the Winter Magic™ Series from the Belgian nursery Het Wilgenbroek. Other significant breeders include Plant Delights Nursery and Pine Knot Farms in North America with others located in Europe, Japan and Australia.