Hellebores, Part IV (page 6)

Hellebores, Part IV (page 6)

by Marge Talt ( mtalt(at)clark.net )


Spotted forms are quite the thing in the UK, it seems. We're so bereft of unusual forms here in the US, that, while spotted flowers are neat, they have not become a mania. But that just might change!

You can see the nectaries quite plainly on this pale green spotted form. They are large in comparison with the flower size, but quite tubular.
spotted pale green

spotted anemone-flowered hellebore
These nectaries are starting to elongate and flatten - both spots and anemone flowers in one plant!

Deep red spotting on a pale pink flower for maximum contrast. The buds give no hint of what will happen when the flower opens.
deep red spotting

spotted hellebore
Full spots on this red, fading to green.

pretty spotted helleboreFlower habit and color can both change during the flowering period - I find this true on my plants. The best time to describe a plant color is at the early part of their bloom season; (mid February to mid March, depending on your climate). Graham tells me that the most extreme example of this type of change would be some whites or yellows which produce green flowers when they start flowering; white or yellow flowers during the main flowering period, and then fade back to green flowers for the last part of the flowering period. You need to be aware of this so that you're not disappointed when your stated flower color really only lasts one month out of the three to five months these plants can be in flower. Climate can also affect how the flowers are born on the plant - drooping or up-facing. If you're really particular, you have to buy divisions of plants with known color and flower habit.

tall helleboreThis last photo is deceiving. It appears to be a rather nice, but usual flower color. It was labeled "tall". I asked Graham what he meant, and he told me that this particular plant reached thirty inches (76.2 cm) when in bloom! That's more than double the normal height for x hybridus cultivars!! Divisions were actually for sale at Behnke, a nursery local to me and I didn't know it - rats! Graham believes he's the only person still selling divisions, instead of seed grown plants. This is not a high volume proposition, since only so many divisions can be made from a mother plant. But, this is the only way to be certain that the plant you want is the plant you are getting. While seed grown plants may be close to the parents, they will never be identical. It does take about three years for a division to recover and show its true colors, but a small seed grown plant will take about the same time to hit its stride.

Plant Delights is offering divisions of some of Graham's purple-black hybrids and, for those of you in the metro Washington, DC area, Karen Rexrode's Windy Hill Plant Farm in Aldie, VA, is offering several of the ones I've shown you. She doesn't do mail order, so those of you outside of driving distance are out of luck. There's a rumor that Graham might try some one-to-one sales of his plants this side of the pond. If this proves to be true, I will let you know all the particulars. Watch my bulletin area and the discussion subject lines.

If you're interested in trying your hand at breeding hellebores, I strongly suggest you get a copy of Graham Rice and Elizabeth Strangman's The Gardener's Guide to Growing Hellebores. There is a very good chapter about hybridizing that will get you started on your way to developing something new and marvelous. This ends the series on hellebores. I know I'm hooked, how about you? See ya' later!

All photographs in this article are copyright by Graham Birkin. Do not use them without his permission!

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