January GBBD: Hellebores on Parade

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.

I have had this gorgeous double purple hellebore in my garden for several years but it has never bloomed this early.  Photo 1/7/12

It is the middle of the month and time to participate in Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day hosted by May Dreams Gardens (link available on December 15) where gardeners from all over the world publish photos of what’s blooming in their gardens.  I participate because it is fun and educational for me to identify what plants make my gardens shine at different times of the year.  This month I hope that my nursery customers and blog readers will get some ideas for plants to add to their own gardens to extend their season through winter.

My garden is located in Bryn Mawr (outside Philadelphia), Pennsylvania, U.S., in zone 6B.

‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar’ is usually one of my first hybrid hellebores to bloom but this is early even for her.

Last January, the whole garden was under snow, and I didn’t even participate in GBBD.  This year couldn’t be more different with 7 days in the 50s (10C) and 6 days at 60 degrees (16C) or above since December 15.  Frankly, I find it extremely worrisome, but it means that I didn’t have to go searching for plants peaking between December 15 and January 15.  There are a few other plants worth featuring, but my hellebores are all blooming early so I call this post Hellebores on Parade.  For the benefit of my customers, I will note which hellebores will be for sale at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens (CSG) this spring.

‘Pink Tea Cup’ has the best pink color of any hybrid hellebore and was the first to come into bloom this season ( for sale at CSG this spring).  Photo 1/9/12

‘Jacob’ Christmas rose just keeps going and going with new white flowers appearing and mixing with the older pink flowers for a gorgeous effect, see below (for sale at CSG).  Photo 12/31/11

‘Jacob’ Christmas rose with Camellia x ‘Winter’s Joy’.  Photo 1/2/12

Flowers are emerging on the hellebore species cross ‘HGC Pink Frost’ (for sale at CSG).  Notice the dark red to burgundy highlights on the leaves and stems and the amazing color of the buds.  As noted in Cutting Back Hellebores, I leave the foliage on to make a nice backdrop for the flowers.  Photo 12/31/11

‘Praecox’ Christmas rose is also blooming at least a month earlier than usual.  Photo 12/31/11

The hellebore species cross ‘HGC Winter’s Song’ is now fully in bloom.  Photo 1/10/12

The rare species Helleborus dumetorum (no common name) continues to bloom (for sale at CSG).  It is deciduous so all the “leaves” in the photo are actually flower bracts.  The leaves will come up later.  Photo 12/31/11

This beautiful, pure white, outward-facing hellebore called ‘Snow White’ (aka ‘Snow Bunting’) is an extremely rare cross between hybrid hellebore and Christmas rose—something that was thought to be impossible (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/9/12

The lighter chartreuse buds of bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus, are becoming more prominent and will remain ornamental through May (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/10/12

Helleborus x "Double Purple"Another look at the hybrid hellebore “Double Purple” (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/7/12

My new favorite this year, hellebore species cross ‘HGC Cinnamon Snow’ (for sale at CSG).  I like it so much that I decided to put it in a basket by my front door.  Photo 1/9/12

There are some other plants looking great in my garden besides hellebores.  Most of the fall-blooming camellias still have viable buds but no flowers open to show you.  They will continue to bloom if the weather cooperates.  Here are the non-hellebore stars:

My un-named Korean Camellia japonica, which blooms in the spring and fall, continues to produce flowers.  Photo 1/9/12

Camellia x ‘Elaine Lee’ also has buds, and look at those shiny leaves.  Photo 1/10/12

Camellia x ‘Winter’s Joy’ has been flowering since October and is still covered with buds but none are open right now.

The buds on my variegated winter daphne, D. odora ‘Aureomarginata’, are coloring up early.  It is the sole survivor of five shrubs I put in this spring.  Although I gave them excellent drainage, they just couldn’t tolerate all the rain we had in August and September.  One by one they wilted from too much water and died, while this one remained healthy.  Photo 1/9/12

If we have cold weather, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, blooms in February, but right now it is opening flowers continuously.  Photo 1/10/12

Galanthus elwesiiThe only snowdrop in bloom right now is the giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/9/12

My fall-flowering snowdrop ‘Potter’s Prelude’ has finished blooming, but I wanted to show you its beautiful leaves (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/1/12

On New Year’s Day, my husband and I went walking in the Pinetum at the Haverford College Arboretum, a wonderful local treasure.  We saw two unusual conifers with great texture that I wanted to share:

Longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, is native from Virginia to Texas but is not usually found around here.

I love firs, and the texture of this Algerian fir, Abies numidica, really stood out.

I dedicate this post to Bob Stewart, my friend and horticulturalist extraordinaire, who died on December 16, 2011.  Bob and his wife Brigitta started the amazing nursery Arrowhead Alpines in Fowlersville, MI.  If you haven’t visited their site, you should by clicking here.  Bob will be greatly missed.


If you would like to look at my photos all year round, please consider buying my 2012 calendar, available worldwide, 20% off through 1/20/12.  For details, click here.

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.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Nursery Happenings: To view the
2012 Snowdrop Catalogue, click here. I am currently accepting orders—snowdrops are available mail order.

Look for an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012.  If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

79 Responses to “January GBBD: Hellebores on Parade”

  1. I love your helebores – the Snow White and Double Purple are my best!! I am so sorry to here of your friends passing. Remember that his spirit will remain in his gardens forever. Plant a tree in his honour. That way he is always in your thoughts. Thanks for a lovely post.

  2. Stunning photo’s ! Absolutely love your hellebores, especially the ‘Double Purple’ ! Would it do well in my Zone 7b, Suwanee, Ga climate? If so, I want some! Love all your posts! So sorry about your gardening friend’s passing…

  3. Amazing that all those plants are already in bloom the 2nd week in January! They are beautiful. I am relying on blooming house plants for bloom day.

  4. Has this weather not been STRANGE? It is nice to see the Hellebores bloom early but this weather is really unusual. My Hellebores do not even have buds, they are thoroughly confused. Today I was outside only in a turtleneck, no jacket. Very nice conifers too.

  5. Not sure if I told you how much I love your calendar…I am looking forward to finding some early blooming hellebores for my zone 5 and I want those fall snowdrops…sad to hear of Bob’s passing.

    • Donna, I am so thrilled that some of my national and international blog readers bought the calendar—I consider it quite a compliment and show of support. Christmas roses and hyhrid hellebores are hardy to zone 4 according to the American hellebore book Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide. Carolyn

  6. I am sorry to hear about Mr. Stewart. I am familiar with Arrowhead.

    I would not have guessed that you could grow that Pinus up there. It is a remarkable species with a storied past, unfortunately it is not that common down here anymore. The Loblollies have taken over.

    It does not look like I am going to make it to MANTS. We have had some shakeups at work and staff is thin, but I hope you have a good time there.


    • Les, Thanks for your kind words. The longleaf pine at the Haverford College Arboretum is small, and I haven’t seen any others here except possibly at Longwood Gardens. I am not sure if this is due to hardiness issues or lack of knowledge and availability. I went to MANTS, and it was fun but exhausting. Sorry you weren’t able to get there. Carolyn

  7. In awe of all, Carolyn … a feast for the eye and gardener’s heart!

  8. The hellebores are looking beautiful. That is a nice Mrs. Betty, I have grown from some from seed but mine seem to have more green streaks in them. I love snow white. There are so many other great things in bloom. I am not as lucky, just a few hellebores in bloom.

    • Joey and Terry, Glad you enjoyed the photos. I am really liking ‘Snow White’–very early, outward-facing, and pure white to start bit aging to a lovely cream. It will probably be the “white hellebore” I offer this year instead of a straight hybrid. Carolyn

  9. What a wonderful selection of Hellebores, they are flowering early this year aren’t they, it’s just the same over this side of the Atlantic, lovely to see so much colour in January.

  10. Carolyn, I can never get tired of hellebores!! Thank you for showing yours. I am visiting today again the Botanical in Leiden and will take more pictures of the area where they have hellebores, will post them for you son!!

  11. Such beauties! The doubles are really stunning! Mine are starting to blooms now too and my camellias are budding. Happy GBBD!

  12. Wow! The double purple hellebore is so cool. Also love the ‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar.’ This is a great post Carolyn–I always learn so much from you. Thanks.

  13. Carolyn, After seeing your beautiful flowers, I am eagerly looking forward to the appearance of my first hellebores. I love the double plum flower that you have shown here especially.

    • Karin, PBM, and Jennifer, The doubles seem to be a big hit. Although generally I prefer single flowers and I like single hellebores equally, double hellebores are just so special, and they are more elegant than unnaturally frilly because they are open in the center. Carolyn

  14. Dear Carolyn, There is no possibility that this reader will get tired of looking at your hellebores! They are amazing! I, too, am a little concerned about their early blooming. Your calendar is lovely! P. x

  15. The weather has been crazy, hasn’t it? I hope future cold spells don’t harm the blooms you have. I have no color in my garden now, but I’m enjoying looking at yours.

    I’m sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. You certainly picked some beautiful and interesting blooms, not to mention that very cool Algerian fir, to pay tribute to him. Best wishes for you in the New Year!

  16. Oh, those hellebores are amazing! Such variety. Mrs. Betty Ranicar is beautiful, but I love the singles, too. I’ve never seen anything like the fir! So sorry to hear about your friend.

  17. nwphillyeric Says:

    I don’t see any plant labels in your hellebore photos. How do you keep the names of all those cultivars straight?

    • Eric, Many of my hundreds of hellebores are un-named hybrids, like the double purple that everyone likes so much in this post. There is nothing to remember with them. All the other plants are labeled but underneath the mulch. I have problems with the area in the display gardens where I transplant hellebores from my production beds that are too nice to sell. A few years later I often can’t figure out what I thought was special. Now I label each of those with a tag describing why it is there. Carolyn

  18. hello Carolyn, sorry to read about your friend but what a lovely dedication to a gardener,
    you really have enticed me with your beautiful Hellebores and what a tease all those plants for sale but not in Scotland!! sorry you lost so many Daphnes, the low part of my garden has been flooded several times in the last couple of weeks the downey birch should be fine not so sure about the leylandii, I love your native longleaf pine, beautiful, Frances

  19. Oh, I remember looking forward to your Hellebore posts last year, too! I love the double-purple! My Hellebores were close to blooming but then we got five inches of snow, which will be a nice blanket until it gets warm again. Your Hellebores are amazing Carolyn!

  20. Those are some amazing winter blooming flowers. It would be hard to leave the garden with that all that glory. I like the leaves of your fall snowdrop too.

  21. Your hellebores are so beautiful! I especially like your Winter’s Song as well as the Cinnamon Snow. Your hellebores are ahead of mine, which are just getting buds. However, my winter daphne looks just like yours, but the only way I have been able to grow this plant successfully is in a pot.

    • Deb, I have been growing Daphne odora here since 1994. Although the plants are generally short-lived and will drop dead if the roots are disturbed, I have been successful with them for up to 10 years at a time for any single plant. However, the record-breaking amount of water we had this year–almost a full year’s worth in two months—was just too much for them. Carolyn

  22. patientgardener Says:

    I love that double purple as well. I tend to avoid double flowers generally as they arent meant to be good for insects but those flowers look pretty open so I will revisit having double hellebores – thanks

  23. That first photo of the purple hellebore just made my morning! You are a GOOD photographer!

  24. Wow they are so beautiful, even if i haven’t seen them in person, except for the snowdrop. That double purple hellebore is my favorite in your photos, it is so unique.

  25. Your hellebores are incredible! I’d love to subscribe to your enewsletter so I can come to your next plant sale. Beautiful photography too.

  26. Carolyn, so much in your garden for the time of year. The double purple is just magnificent. Thanks for your opinions on my last comment on your post regarding Hellebores, cant say that disease on the plants has been an issue here, I seem to recall best results were to wait till the flower buds were pretty well developed and then just tidy up the plants, this is usually in February. My new ones which are coming along nicely are, party dress purple, party dress pink and yellow lady. One of them has a fully opened flower which is tiny and very insignificant, I’m hoping this is not going to be the extent of their performance. So sorry to hear of the sad loss of your friend.

    • Alistair, I am glad that disease on the hellebore leaves is not an issue for you because the leaves are pretty in the winter. I follow the same procedure for cutting back as you do. Sometimes newly planted hellebores will produce flowers that are not fully formed or the right color. I hope your plants go on to perform beautifully. However, hellebores are not like most perennials, which growers can push to flower in a couple of months and then sell. They take three years to reach flowering size and sometimes longer in the ground. That is why they are so expensive. Some of the newer varieties have been selected to flower earlier, but I haven’t tested this. Carolyn

  27. Hi Carolyn… it’s definitely a beautiful tree, but I’m afraid I have no idea which cultivar it might be. There are so many and I might recognize a few, but not this one … sorry. Now I have a question for you… do you know of any sources for double primula vulgaris that don’t charge a fortune? I have been searching the web and if I were in England it would be no problem… not so much luck finding them here I’m afraid. I had started many from seed, but unfortunately the earwigs got
    into them and destroyed all except four, which I’m hoping make it through the winter.

    The Algerian fir is gorgeous… not sure that it would be hardy here though. Larry

    • Larry, The double primrose that I have had the most luck with is the Belarina series. I am not sure if it is a Primula vulgaris, but it is pretty commonly available because I think it’s a Proven Winners plant. I got mine at a local nursery that doesn’t sell them anymore so I don’t have a mail order source that I use. It does look like Big Dipper Farm has double P. vulgaris for $6.99 though. Carolyn

      • Carolyn… I just saw this reply last evening and had never heard of the Belarina series. I really appreciate the info as I intend to be on the lookout for these plants this spring… in fact, I may contact our local garden center to see if they can order them in… I’ve never seen them in the past which seems like such a sad thing (I check for primula wherever I plant shop)… they are so beautiful! Thanks again, Larry

  28. A brilliant parade. I enjoyed each and every participant!

  29. A lovely collection of hellebores! The double purple and ‘Mrs. Betty’ are simply gorgeous.

  30. Simply lovely! I shiver to think what’s coming. We had had 26 F night before last here in the deep south.

  31. Your hellebores are wonderful and such a nice addition in the garden for this time of year. The ‘Snow While’ and ‘Double Purple’ are magnificent!

  32. Love, love, love the hellebores. I am in heaven this Bloom Day as I can view so many different types in other gardener’s posts. Next, to read your previous post of Cutting Back Hellebores. Happy GBBD!

  33. You have such lovely plants. I wonder how many of the hellebores you feature will grow for me (I live near Binghamton, NY -zone 5). I just discovered hellebores last year – I have one but it isn’t the kind that blooms mid winter. I also have camellia envy! We’ve had the same mild winter (until last week!) as you – hasn’t it been strange! Too bad winter has reached us now.

  34. I had no idea Bob had died! Thanks for letting us know. I enjoyed his catalog copy more than anyone else’s and theirs was the only catalog I would read cover to cover. Condolences to Brigitta and Ender.

  35. Your hellebores are exotic to me – I love the softness of their blooms and leaves – I don’t have a lot of shade around my place but I’m going to look for a hellebore opportunity!

  36. Katharina Woicke Says:

    dear carolyn,
    it is the first time I visited your website – but it won’t be the last time! I love the pictures of your beautiful hellebores. Here in the region of Cologne (Germany) it seems to be spring already (well, almost) and the first of my oriental hellebores are in bloom für two weeks now. The Christmas roses show their flowers since the beginning of November, followed by helleborus foetidus at the end of December. Greetings Katharina

    • Katharina, Thank you so much for visiting. Do you have a blog? I am a hellebore addict and my nursery specializes in hellebores. Many of the best come from Germany. Heuger and Giesela Schliemann come to mind. Carolyn

      • Katharina Woicke Says:

        Sorry, I don’t have a blog. Talking of German hellebores: have you ever had contact to Jürgen Peters (www.alpine-peters.de)? I have never been in his nursery in northern Germany, but I find his hellebores fascinating. Katharina

      • Katharina, No problem, just wondering. I looked at the Peters site but couldn’t find the hellebores. The most amazing collection of hepatica that I have ever seen though. Carolyn

  37. My hellebores haven’t made their appearance yet, but yours are beautiful–especially the double purple. So frilly.

  38. How absolutely serene.

  39. these photos are exactly what i needed to see on this cold wet day. They really are an astonishing flower. Kat

  40. Kelly, Lydia, and Kathleen, Thanks for visiting. I’m glad your enjoyed the photographs. Carolyn

  41. Such beautiful selections, Carolyn. ‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar’ is a stunner I have admired for a while. And I agree – ‘Cinnamon Snow’ is arresting in its peach tones. I do not tire of Hellebores either. This winter has made me think that I should try some H. niger in case it is ever this mild again! (Most years we have snow solid from Dec through March.)

    • Julie, I wish ‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar’ were available wholesale. I read something recently referring to it disparagingly as an old cultivar, but I have yet to see its better. ‘Jacob’ Christmas rose blooms here in November and December. Carolyn

  42. I really love the Mrs. Betty Ranicar, I would love to grow that. The flowers look great! I can’t wait till Spring, so I can actually grow them rather than looking at photos..lol

  43. Beautiful Hellebores. They don’t look like they nod as much as many of the older ones do.

  44. […] January GBBD: Hellebores on Parade (carolynsshadegardens.com) Share this:EmailTwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  45. Fantastic from Italy !

  46. Has anyone ever grown “Onyx Odyssey” . . . ??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: