Species Hellebores for 2012
In my post New Hellebores for 2012, I profiled all the exciting new hybrid hellebores that I am offering this spring. If you haven’t read it, there are some gorgeous photos. Now I want to show you the species hellebores that are available at my nursery this year. In a third post, I will describe what I call the “species crosses” that you can add to your garden this spring.
In The Sex Lives of Hellebores, I described the difference between hybrid hellebores, the subject of my February 2012 new hellebore post, and the roughly 15 types of species hellebores. I sell most of the species by special order, but here I want to profile the five that I will be featuring this year. My favorite is Christmas rose, Helleborus niger. Despite its name, I used to have to wait until March to view its lovely pure white flowers. With the introduction of the cultivars ‘Josef Lemper’ and ‘Jacob’, which reliably start blooming in November, you can now have Christmas roses blooming for Christmas.
Christmas roses have many desirable attributes which I described at length in Christmas Rose: The Perfect Hellebore. Their outward facing, pure white flowers are framed by lovely blue-green leaves that stay ornamental through winter. They are deer resistant like hybrid hellebores but are smaller and have a more refined look than the hybrids. For more information on ‘Jacob’ and ‘Josef Lemper’, see Hellebores for Fall.
I am very excited to be able to offer ‘Double Fantasy’, a fully double Christmas rose developed through tissue culture by a nursery in Japan. Before it was introduced in 2011, I had only seen one double (in Charles Cresson’s garden), and double Christmas roses were not available for sale. Its flowers are magical.
The next three species, H. odorus, H. purpurascens, and H. viridis, were all profiled in depth in The Sex Lives of Hellebores because they are all parents of the hybrid hellebores. However, they are gardenworthy in their own right and have attributes the hybrids don’t have. I am a big fan of green flowers, and fragrant hellebore, H. odorus, has striking yellow-green flowers with a delicious scent that is pervading my garden right now. It looks especially nice when grown with dark purple hybrids.
Helleborus purpurascens, which has no handy common name, is another one of my favorites. The colors mixed in its flowers, blue-green and a silvery, smoky purple, have not been duplicated in any of the hybrid flowers. I would also grow it just for its circular, filigreed leaves:
Green hellebore, H. viridis, has the purest green flowers of almost any plant I grow. It is also shorter and more compact than the hybrid hellebores and the other species. It too looks great with dark purple to black flowers, but my favorite combination features green hellebore with a drift of the true blue flowers of brunnera—heaven:
The final species that I will be offering this spring is bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus. I profiled this plant in detail in Hellebores for Fall. Bearsfoot has the most ornamental leaves of any hellebore, and they are truly wintergreen coming through ice and snow looking pristine. Bearsfoot forms its lovely chartreuse buds in the fall. The flowers open in winter and remain ornamental until it gets hot. It is also taller than other hellebores, reaching two feet or more and giving it the stature of a small shrub:
When I started this post, I thought I would be able to fit the seven species above plus the five “species crosses” I will also be selling this spring. You know me though: I get excited about hellebores. By the time I included all the photos I wanted, the post was long enough. Look for a third post with some exciting crosses, all with Christmas rose as a parent.
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Nursery Happenings: My Hellebore Extravaganza open house sale is Saturday, March 24, from 10 am to 3 pm. The 2012 Hellebore Seminars are sold out. To view the 2012 Snowdrop Catalogue, click here. Snowdrops are still available for pick up at the nursery, but mail order is closed.
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