Hellebores, Part IV (page 2)
by Marge Talt ( mtalt(at)clark.net
Deep Purples - Slatey Blues - Midnight Blacks
These dusky colors are probably the most sought after, likely because so few plants exhibit this range of color. While exquisite on close examination, they need careful placing in the garden so that the color doesn't fade into the shadows.
Graham tells me he has this one in a bed underplanted with snowdrops (Galanthus) - sounds the perfect combination to me. This one has me salivating because the foliage is purple, echoing the tints in the slate blue flowers. It came from a hybrid given Graham by a friend fifteen years ago - a chance cross with a good form of H. torquatus. His friend's plant had dark red flowers. Graham did four crosses over a twelve year period to get this one plant; the only one with this color from a batch of eighty seedlings. He says he's "selfed" it (hand pollinating with the plant's own pollen), but hasn't been able to duplicate the dark foliage.
Here's another blue flower, this time without the purple foliage.
This one looks purple or slatey-blue, but Graham says that it's really a spotted pink, where the spots are so close together the pink is only hinted at.
Black as night! This one is one I would really love to have! Graham calls it blue-black, but it looks about as close to black as I've ever seen a flower. The form of the flower is beautiful; just look at the contrast with the white stamens!
It seems that these lovely dark colors can be due to recessive genes. Graham says that "recessive genes do occur in pure species - following Darwin's theories they would die out in the wild. We select them for hybridizing because they are different. This is particularly true of the blacks. Many of the dark forms of H torquatus collected in the wild have been found to have recessive genes (e.g. H. torquatus 'Nero') and they have been used to breed in dark colours, but not all dark coloured forms have recessive genes. It is just a case of finding out by trial and error which do and which don't."