Hellebores Part 6: Double Hellebores

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ ‘Peppermint Ice’ in my garden.

Hybrid hellebores are the most commonly available hellebores with the large, showy, nodding flowers in an amazing range of colors (click here and here to see photos).  In my article An Ode to Seed Strain Hellebores, I explained my fascination with the diversity found in hybrid helleboresI also love them because their leaves are evergreen, deer don’t eat them, and they are easy to grow in sun or shade.  They bloom from February often into May with dozens of very large colorful flowers.  My biggest clump produces over a hundred blooms per season.

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ ‘Golden Lotus’ in my garden.

But right now I am especially fond of them because they look pristine through extreme heat, extended drought, torrential rains, and brutal winters–the weather conditions we have experienced in the mid-Atlantic U.S. for the last couple of years.  You have to love a plant that wasn’t watered during the record-breaking heat and drought of the summer of 2010 and thrived.  That’s what mine did. 

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ ‘Sparkling Diamond’

My nursery customers are very interested in double-flowered hellebores, and although I usually prefer single flowers, I love double hellebores too.  They are so graceful and showy that  they really stand out in my gardens, eliciting questions and comments every time I give a tour.

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ ‘Onyx Odyssey’

However, until recently, I was reluctant to sell double hellebores unless they were in bloom.  I didn’t want my customers spending a lot of money on these expensive plants, and double hellebores are pricey, only to find they were singles a year or two later when they bloomed.  I myself fell victim to this when I “grew on” a flat of 72 supposedly double hellebores only to find that, when they bloomed three years later, 6 of them were actually double and the rest were single.

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ ‘Harlequin Gem’

One way to avoid this is by purchasing a double hellebore that is propagated by tissue culture.  However, as I explained in my previous post, then you have the same cookie cutter hellebore that everyone else has.  I prefer seed strain hellebores developed by a knowledgeable breeder to produce reliably double flowers within a defined color range.  This is what Marietta O’Byrne at Northwest Garden Nursery in Eugene, OR, has accomplished with her Winter Jewels™ strain of double hellebores.  Winter Jewels™ hellebores produce beautifully formed double flowers in the color range promised but with the exciting diversity of a seed strain, making each gorgeous bloom slightly different.

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ ‘Jade Tiger’: this photo shows the variation of flowers for ‘Jade Tiger’, which is green with varying highlights.

I grow ‘Onyx Odyssey’, ‘Peppermint Ice’, and ‘Golden Lotus’ in my gardens and have been very pleased with their flowers.  I was also pleasantly surprised when they bloomed at a very young age on tiny plants added to my garden last fall.  For more information about and photos of Winter Jewels™ hellebores, visit the Terra Nova Nursery website and view their entry on each cultivar.  Unless indicated, the photos in this post are courtesy of Terra Nova Nursery.

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ ‘Peppermint Ice’ in my garden.

If you are a local customer of my nursery, see Nursery Happenings below for details about purchasing double hellebores.


This is part of a series of articles on hellebores, one of the specialties of my nursery.  Here are links to the other articles:

Part One        Hellebores for Fall

Part Two       An Ode to Seed Strain Hellebores

Part Three   Christmas Rose: The Perfect Hellebore

Part Four      Dividing Hybrid Hellebores

Part Five       The Sex Lives of Hellebores

Part Six          Double Hellebores

Part Seven   Cutting Back Hellebores

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.), click here.

Nursery Happenings: I am sold out of the double hellebores pictured above.  If you still want to view the hellebore offer, click here.  My first fall open house sale will be Saturday, September 24, from 10 am to 2pm.

48 Responses to “Hellebores Part 6: Double Hellebores”

  1. What a nice, informative post! I ordered ‘Peppermint Ice’ this Spring… they’re in the ground and I hope they look as lovely as yours next Spring!!

    Hellebores are truly a wonderful plant (with the dividends!) for the shade!!

  2. i really like the doubles. I have th singles, but I may very well add some doubles. They give so much fullness to those gorgeous blooms.

  3. I’m afraid we don’t get that many varieties in the UK, they are really beautiful. I grew some from saved seed last year and they are in flower at the moment, which is unusual they have a deep claret coloured flower, as you say, they re completely hardy and hybridise quite freely.

  4. Yes, I agree, so much better to buy your Hellebores while in flower so that you can see exactly what you are getting. Over here in the UK we have about 1/2 dozen different seed strains to choose from at different specialist nurseries and no doubt soon the breeders will develop more different ones to tempt us !

  5. Carolyn, those Hellebores are simply sensational, Myra particularly likes the Peppermint Ice’. Our only reason for having so few of them is because of our obsession with Summer flowering plants, time we got over it.

  6. Wow! What a selection, they are beautiful!

  7. Hellebores are so beautiful, sadly the summers are too hot for them to really perform well here but some of the species do well as long as there is just alittle shade.

  8. My hellebores are all doubles and one of them did come back as a single. I bought it at Plantasia from a breeder too. I bet it would be frustrating as a grower to plant and wait, then not get what you were expecting the following year or years. I really do not mind it being a single, it is very pretty anyway. You must be very busy, I am glad you are back.

    • Donna, Even with really good seed strains, you are bound to get some singles. But it is frustrating for customers to get a single or even a double with very ordinary flowers when they are paying top price for a beautiful double. Thanks for the welcome back. Carolyn

  9. Dear Carolyn, I am glad to see you are safely back from your island in New England. I mentioned your ‘planters’ posting in mine.

    Oh, I am so in love with hellebores and yours are amazing! Are you doing any mail order this year? I leave for England soon, until October 10, so need to get my fall planting done ASAP. I am going to wait until spring to plant snowdrops on your advice.

    A very informative post, as always. P. x

  10. Beautiful images – like you I am not usually a fan of double flowers, but these are elaborate without being too showy or in-your-face. The ‘Peppermint Ice’ looks particularly lovely. And it’s great that they are reliably double but not all identical.

  11. patientgardener Says:

    I prefer single Hellebores to double. They are wonderful plants arent they adding structural interest all year

  12. Thanks for reminding us that if we plant now we may have some beauties in the spring. I was swooning over “Sparkling Diamond” and then I saw “Onyx Odyssey”! Be still my heart!

    • Holley, Fall is actually the best time to plant most plants, especially with the summers we have been having lately. All my newly planted daphne shrubs are dying from too much water–isn’t it ironic. I am thankful that the hellebores are so tough. Carolyn

  13. I have been growing my own hellebores from seed and enjoying the natural variations on a theme. But the double hellebores look tempting. Do you ship plants out of state? I agree that hellebores are the best all-around plant for tough weather conditions and deer resistance.

  14. Oh my, Carolyn, now you have me shopping for double hellebores! They are beautiful, and you are correct when you say they are pricey! Now I am wondering, just how badly do I want, need this plant. The problem is just one won’t do. I would need several!

    • Deb, If you are shopping mail order, make sure you find out how big the pot is and how big the actual plant is (height and number of leaves). My experience is that you will get the same size plant I am selling for almost twice the price plus shipping. It is better to find hellebores locally if possible. Carolyn

  15. Zowie! All my H’s are single. I had no idea there could be such variety.

  16. There’s a good sized space for hellebores (a flower I have never grown before) in my new serenity garden, and I’m looking forward to choosing and planting some of these wonderful plants next spring. Thanks for educating me about them in this series.

    • Jean, I would like to think of your serenity garden with some hellebores in it. You could come to Carolyn’s Shade Gardens :-). I may even have some blooming Winter Jewels because I am planting all the plants I have right now that are too small to sell. Carolyn

  17. Delightful post!

    Hellebores are a long favorite of mine… as are most things ‘spring’. I find they do well even in our very dry shade conditions, along with perennial foxgloves, which I just posted on today.

    Hope your garden came through the weather this past month intact.

  18. Those are so beautiful! I didn’t know that they had double hellebores. Those Jade Tiger doubles are gorgeous with the green rimmed in red!

  19. They are very beautiful – I didn’t realize they came in such a variety of colors. A very informative post.

  20. I had no idea there even were double hellebores. I’ve learned something new yet again. and boy are they pretty. I’m leaning toward that gorgeous dark red/black flower myself.

    • Marguerite, It just goes to show that you shouldn’t assume anything. I almost didn’t do this post because I thought I didn’t have that much to add to what everyone already knows. I am so involved with hellebores that it didn’t occur to me that gardeners would not know about doubles. I am so glad I went ahead anyway. Carolyn

  21. Hellebores are such an exciting genus for the very reasons you stated-tough plants. I love them all.

  22. Very informative post about a class of plants I have no experience with. Thank you, Carolyn. I will further investigate if these would fit into my shade garden here in Kansas.

  23. omg! those are so wonderful. beautiful photos. we don’t have those flowers here so thanks for sharing. happy gardening!

  24. I didn’t actually think it was possible for me to long for winter, but your photos made we want to see Hellebores blooming.

  25. Carolyn, these are breathtaking! I’ve got white, green, and some burgundy ones, but I definitely see more hellebores in my future!

  26. A close friend gave me a couple seedlings from her garden and despite how small they are, they didn’t even need to be watered during our hideous heat wave this summer. I was shocked! These plants are just as tough as you describe them to be. I’m looking forward to watching them grow and bloom since I’m not sure what color they’ll be! Great post!!! 🙂

  27. Carolyn – Hellebores have been on my wishlist for quite a while (I found them listed in my garden journal in an entry 5 yrs ago?!). Time to step up and make it happen. (BTW – excellent series for your blog readers; it’s been a fascinating read.)

  28. Do the double hellebores totally die down to the ground over summer or is there foliage still visible? I planted two last spring and they’ve disappeared. Maybe the easiest plants to grow died?

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