Posts tagged ‘hellebore’

Hellebores: Jewels of Winter, Part II

Last week Smithsonian gardens Horticulturist Janet Draper introduced us to some of the most beautiful of the winter flowering plants, Hellebores. Here are a few more of her favorite picks for your home garden:

Helleborus niger 

One of the new cultivars that I have been most impressed with are new varieties of Helleborus niger,  a.k.a the ‘Christmas Rose.’  I had never been impressed with Helleborus niger in the past, but the selection ‘Joseph Lemper’ has really changed my opinion.  It is marketed as part of the Helleborus Gold Collection (HGC) from Heuger nurseries in Germany.  The Joseph Lemper in the Ripley Garden started producing numerous 2-2 1/2” flowers on sturdy tall stems held well above the foliage in late NOVEMBER and it is still producing new flowers in late February!   I am not sure if this form is sterile or not, but either way this cultivar is a showstopper for the winter garden.

Hellebore 'Pink Frost'

Helleborus x ballardie ‘Pink Frost’

Helleborus  x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’

Another member of the HGC series is Helleborus  x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’.  This beauty starts blooming in February and will continue for at least a month.  It has lovely upward-facing pink flowers which turn a deeper shade of pink as they age.  The foliage is gorgeous, with lovely white veining and red stems.   My plants are still young, but I am really impressed with what is showing so far!

There are many other exciting new cultivars hitting the market, including some from local breeders like David Culp in Pennsylvania, Barry Glick in West Virginia and Judith and Dick Tyler in Southern Virginia.  There are new selections which are double flowered, or possess dramatic markings, enlarged nectarines, upward facing flowers… oh the madness!

I have been slowly adding more and more of these winter gems to the Ripley Garden and currently have nineteen different varieties.  Some are still quite small and will not bloom for a year or two since they take some time to get established, but all are worth the investment of time and money to brighten your winter garden.

-Janet Draper, Horticulturist

March 11, 2013 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Hellebores: Jewels of Winter, Part I

Most people think that winter is a “dead time” in the garden, but they could not be more wrong. In a climate as mild as Washington DC (officially a zone 7b, but Mother Nature doesn’t seem to like being pigeonholed), little signs of spring start to appear as early as January.

I’d like to share my love affair with the jewels of the winter—Helleborus.  Hellebores are members of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), and are shade loving, evergreen plants which bloom during the winter months. Wait—it gets even better—deer don’t find them to be particularly tasty!

It used to be that the most commonly found hellebores in nurseries were the Christmas rose, (Helleborus niger) and the Lenten rose (Helleborus hybridus).  Other species were available but sorely under appreciated  Times have changed, and thanks to breeders, the diversity of Hellebores on the market is quite amazing,

Here are a few of my favorite Hellebores growing in the Smithsonian Mary Livingston Ripley Garden:

Helleborus foetidus

A long time favorite of mine has always been Helleborus foetidus, or the Stinking Hellebore. What a cruel name for a gorgeous plant! Helleborus foetidus has finely-cut fingerlike evergreen foliage which thrives in shady conditions. The real show begins in October when chartreuse flower stalks start emerging above the foliage, taunting you with the promise of flowers. The small lime green bells finally unfurl in late January or February, demure clusters of little green bells edged in raspberry.

One interesting fact about Hellebores is that the flower ‘petals’ are actually modified leaves so even after the flower starts seed production, these ‘petals’ remain attractive for two to three months.

The only maintenance required for this hellebore is to cutting off the flower stems once they start to look tatty. Or, if you have enough plants, cut off the flowering stems before the seed pods ripen, otherwise they will self sow to produce a large colony.

Corsican Hellebore

Helleborus argutifolis, ‘Corsican Hellebore’

Helleborus argutifolius

Another favorite species of mine is Helleborus argutifolius, or the Corsican hellebore. It also produces lovely chartreuse flowers, which are striking against its coarsely-toothed blue-grey foliage. The flower opens entirely and is outward facing to display the prominent yellow stamens very clearly. The one challenge I have with the Corsican Hellebore is that the two-foot stems flop, leaving a gaping bald spot in the center of the clump—nothing a little discrete staking can’t hide. Like Helleborus foetidus, the Corsican hellebore is caulescent (flowers are produced on the same stem as the foliage) so once the flowers begin to look tatty or you don’t want any more plants, remove this entire stem down to the ground, and any other stems that look rough after the winter.

Hellebore 'Lenten Rose'

Hellebore x hybridus, ‘Lenten Rose’

Helleborus x hybridus

One of the classic hellebores on the market is Helleborus x hybridus, the Lenten rose, with blooms ranging from white to pink. Due to the seed grown variability it is always best to purchase plants in flower if you want to know what you’re getting. Otherwise, enjoy the surprise!

-Janet Draper, Horticulturist

March 5, 2013 at 9:00 am Leave a comment


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