Hellebore Bore.

I have to admit that I am a hellebore bore. I am crazy about winter blooming flowers. I spend hours crooning over snowdrops and  then we get the hellebores which start in January and then get better and better throughout February and into March.  Hellebores should head my list of Top Ten February blooms which I will post on Sunday but I think  they deserve a post of their own. So many plants when they are over -hybridised are made ugly and ungainly with short stems and much bigger faces than nature intended, but new hellebore hybrids get ever more stunning.  I am entranced by some of the newest cultivars, many of them with girls’ names. Some of them, bred by Rodney Davey after years of painstaking work are fabulous. They have marbled leaves and large, outward -facing flowers. This one was named ‘Anna”s Red’ as a compliment to Anna Pavord. Behind it you can see the new part of my winter garden which I have not finished planting yet. There will be a path right through it lined with box balls. I am not a great fan of topiary but if we do get snow it is fun to have snowballs in the winter garden.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Anna’s Red’

Other Rodney Davey hybrids include Helleborus x hybridus ‘Penny’s Pink’.

Helleborus x hybridus ”Penny’s Pink’

Helleborus  x hybridus ‘Molly’s White’

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Molly’s White’

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Cheryl’s Shine’

Helleborus ‘ x hybridus Cheryl’s Shine’

I am keeping an eye out for more lovely Rodney Davey hybrids such as ‘Sally’s Shell’, ‘Glenda’s Gloss’, ‘Pippa’s Purple’ and ”Dana’s Dulcet’.

A few years ago I got very excited by some lovely ‘ericsmithii’ hybrids which had masses of flowers and marbled leaves. I bought two or three and put them in the sunny spot they are supposed to enjoy. I have lost all of them. Here is lovely Helleborus x ericsmithii’ ‘Shooting Stars’ in 2017. There is no sign of it now, I hope the Rodney Davis hybrids prove to be more long lasting.

Helleborus x ericsmithii ‘Shooting Star’

Although they are still expensive, comparatively speaking, hellebores are not as dear as they used to be. I first got hooked more than 20 years ago when I visited Elizabeth Strangman’s wonderful nursery in Kent. She was a pioneer in hellebore breeding and sold them in a range of amazing colours ranging from primrose to apricot,  all through shades of pink to red and from slate to black. I had never seen these wonderful hellebore colours before.  She was one of the first to breed doubles. I still have this one which I bought all those years ago.

Of course we are used to seeing doubles now and very pretty they are too in their party dresses. Many of the new hybrids with girls’ names are very vigorous and as they are micro -propagated they are much cheaper than they used to be.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘ Phoebe’

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Cinderella’

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Double Ellen’

Another hellebore which I bought from Elizabeth Strangman was a lovely picotee one. This is white delicately veined and  edged with dark pink.

Picotee Hellebore

Another special one which I brought from my previous garden is an old variety which may have originated there when it was an nursery. It is called ‘Petsamo’ and has large pure white flowers with pointed petals.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Petsamo’

It doesn’t have many seedlings, this one has inherited the large pointed flowers but has pink spots which rather spoil it.

I particularly love anemone-flowered hellebores where the ovaries look like an Elizabethan ruff inside the flower.

I have often read and heard it said that it is not worth saving hellebore seedlings because they will end up with washed out colours but this is absolute nonsense. If you want solid blocks of one colour then I suppose you have to stick to one variety but how boring. And anyway it would be prohibitively expensive to have carpets of special named varieties. Mine seed about in abundance, both the ones I brought with me and the ones that were already here. I have huge carpets of them in a tapestry of colours and I love every one.

These all used to be known as Helleborus orientalis but as there are so many crosses they are now known as Helleborus x hybridus. Sometimes you get an unusual seedling like this one which has small green striped flower which look as if there could have been with a cross with the native Helleborus foetidus which abounds in the garden.

As I have hundreds of hellebores it always seems extravagant to buy expensive new ones. Nevertheless, every year I treat myself to a couple of new ones. My pride and joy this year is a new German hybrid called ‘Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Cinnamon Snow’. Along with Elizabeth Strangman, Helen Ballard was one of the earliest hellebore hybridisers. It appears that one of her hellebores was a parent of this beautiful plant. It has cinnamon coloured flowers which area perfect match for the shiny bark of Prunus serrula.

Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Cinnamon Snow’

So there we have it, I could go on and on, as I said I am a hellebore bore but I will stop now in case you are all falling asleep.

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36 Responses to Hellebore Bore.

  1. It is certainly hellebore season, as many over here are showing them on their blogs. I can’t imagine hundreds of them. I’ll bet your gardens are beautiful and as I can’t grow them I will enjoy yours.

  2. Pam Walker says:

    I also love hellebores…the more the merrier. Currently really appreciating 2 yellow/ apricot ones, planted 2 years ago.

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Never boring! You have a beautiful collection, Liz. Inspiring!

  4. March Picker says:

    Falling asleep? Never! These are superb — every single one.

  5. I don’t think that you could be boring Chloris even if you tried. A but like snowdrops I’ve never met a hellebore that I’ve not liked. What an absolutely splendid array you have. I saw some of the new girls on a recent garden centre trip and swooned over ‘Glenda’s Gloss’. Kicking myself now for not making a purchase.

  6. tonytomeo says:

    It seems that everyone enjoys these. I just recently wrote about why I don’t. There are several at work, but they are never happy in our bland climate. I can’t bear to get rid of any of them because they have been here for so long. They all look so pretty elsewhere. I do not bother with snowdrops because there are so many more colorful flowers to bloom through winter. However, after seeing so many I might try a few if I can find some that are close to the straight species.

  7. Pauline says:

    What a fantastic selection you have, I too have lost all my Eric Smithii, thank goodness I’m not the only one. I don’t let my hellebores go to seed as I need the space for my snowdrops, don’t want them crowded out!

    • Chloris says:

      It is a pity about the ericsmithii hellebores.I think they are probably not hardy because they have the tender ‘sternii’ in their make up. I keep my hellebores away from my snowdrop specials.

  8. I was mesmerised! All so beautiful and such variety. A treat indeed.

  9. Be still my heart! These are wonderful. Do you not have any of the yellow variants or are you saving those for your top ten?

  10. Kris Peterson says:

    They’re glorious! I especially like the picotee varieties. There weren’t any hellebores here when we moved in 9+ years ago but I was convinced I could make a go of them, ordering my first 3 plants (‘Phoebe’) from the original Heronswood Nursery (before it was bought out and destroyed). I waited and waited but didn’t get any flowers. I finally moved them and voila, flowers! So then I went crazy and invested in a variety of them. Those in the Winter Gem series came to nothing but ‘Anna’s Red’, ‘Blue Lady’ and ‘Red Lady’ came through for me. I just picked up a new one, ‘Pacific Frost’, on a whim. They seem to take their time to get established here so I’m not expecting flowers from that one this year but I bought it as much for the foliage as the flowers.

    • Chloris says:

      Great that you can grow them, I’m surprised you get enough moisture to keep them happy but they are worth every effort. Phoebe is a lovely one, well they all are.

  11. They are all beautiful. I enjoyed every one!

  12. pbmgarden says:

    A wonderful collection you have amassed. I’m so intrigued by the variety. ‘Cinnamon Snow’ does look fine against the bark of the Prunus. I bought 5 new hybrids a few weeks ago and as indulgent as it seemed at the time, they have brought me great pleasure.

    • Chloris says:

      I nearly had a fight over Cinnamon Snow, a man tried to grab it from under my nose just as I was picking it up. It was the last one. I remember you writing about your hellebore purchases.. We never regret the plants we buy, just the ones we don’t buy. I bought a new one today and I know if I hadn’t bought it I would have had to go back.

  13. bittster says:

    I can only imagine how many are scattered throughout your garden. Not to be intrusive but I counted almost 50 photos of different plants and I suspect that’s only a small selection of the goodies you grow! They all look so comfortable and well grown, the weather here often prevents that and they suffer.
    The hybrids are exciting, so many subtle combinations that only a gifted breeder could imagine. They still require a little searching to find over here and can be pricey but they’re so worth it.

  14. Brian Skeys says:

    They are one flower you cannot have to many of. We are fortunate here in the West Midlands to have John Massey’s, nursery close by, he has done a huge amount of hellebore breeding. His garden and nursery are well worth a visit.

  15. Jason Kay says:

    My God, what a selection! Many are fabulous, but I think my favorite is ‘Cheryl’s Shine’. Did you get the phrase Hellebore bore from Christopher Lloyd? I think I remember reading it in one of his books.

  16. Cathy says:

    Oh what a glorious post, Chloris, and I musn’t be envious of the size of your hellebore collection as your garden is three times so the size of mine so you can fit in 3 times more of everything 😉 Spurned on by the huge range of colour and type, as well as their reliable early spring flowering, I too have added lots this year, some smaller than others, but see them as an investment for the future – although I was little concerned when you talked about the potential short-lived nature of some of them. My ericsmithii ‘Winter Moonbeam’ must be at least 2 ft in diameter and I have only had it a couple of years, but will now be prepared for it to turn up its toes at any time… 🙂 Thanks for sharing your beauties

    • Chloris says:

      Winter Moonbeam is a lovely thing, I had it once. I think these erismithii have some sternii in their make up and this means they don’t survive really hard winters. That’s my theory anyway. The last couple of winters have been reasonably mild. Maybe they always will be now with climate change and your Winter Moonbeam will get ever bigger and better.

      • Cathy says:

        That’s an interesting point about the ericsmithii hybrids – not sure I want my Winter Moonbeam to get any bigger than it is though…

  17. snowbird says:

    Oh my, what an incredible collection. I can’t imagine having hundred’s of hellebore’s! These were a feast for the eyes, how wonderful it must be roaming around enjoying them.xxx

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