I know that I talk about hellebores an awful lot, but several things have occurred recently that compel me to write yet again about one of my favourite winter-flowering perennials.
First of all, there are a ton of new introductions this year – including many doubles, picotees and colour strains.
Secondly, the average cost for some of the more exclusive cultivars has come down somewhat, so if you were put-off by the $50 price tag you winced at several years ago – I would encourage you to have another look at the Helleborus being offered at your local garden centre.
Lastly, smaller pot sizes (11 centimetres) are now readily available, so you should be able to purchase some of the more common varieties (Lenten Rose, Lady Series and Christmas Rose) in these sizes for around $10.
This means that hellebores are no longer the exclusive domain of the social elite, they have become a truly proletariat perennial –ones worthy of any Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows garden.
On that note, here are a few of my favourite new or nearly new hellebores for the 2011/2012 season.
• Helleborus niger – ‘Double Fashion’ – Finally, a true double-flowered Christmas rose with pure white ruffled petals and contrasting yellow stamens. This is a cloned selection, so you don’t have to worry whether or not your particular plant will bear double blooms. That said, it is still quite rare – so if you see it, buy it right away. Blooms January-April. Grows 30-40cm tall and 40cm wide. Hardy to Zone 4.
• Helleborus x hybridus ‘Mary Lou’ – A new Lenten Rose type from the Spring Promise series, it features delightful single blooms of pale pink with heavy maroon spotting and golden stamens from February to April. This deer resistant perennial grows 45-60cm tall and is hardy to Zone 5.
• Helleborus x hybridus ‘Mardi Gras Double Mix’ – From breeder Charles Price comes this series of large very double blooms ranging in colour from dark plum, reddish-purple, rose, pale pink and white – with some spotting. This Lenten Rose type is very free-flowering (February-April) and grows 45-60cm tall. Hardy to Zone 5.
• Helleborus x nigercors ‘Honeyhill Joy’ – This cross of Helleborus niger and corsicus (syn argutifolius) is sun tolerant, very easy to grow, blooms at a young age and is reliably evergreen through winter. The outward facing creamy-white blooms (in late winter) age to green and are nicely contrasted by the glossy bluish-green foliage. Grows 45-60cm tall and 60cm wide. Hardy to Zone 6.
• Helleborus x hybridus ‘Harlequin Gem’ – A strain of variable fully double blooms from the Winter Jewels Series that flower from March to May. The colours range from green, pale yellow and green centers with vibrant reddish-purple to nearly black edging. This Lenten Rose type grows 36cm tall and 60cm wide. Hardy to Zone 5.
• Helleborus x ericsmithii ‘Silvermoon’ – A vigorous hellebore with large creamy-white flowers (with a hint of pink) fading to a dusky rose. This cultivar is a heavy bloomer and features equally beautiful silvery-green foliage (evergreen) with reddish stems. ‘Silvermoon’ blooms January to March and grows 45cm tall and 50 cm wide. Hardy to Zone 5.
• Helleborus x hybridus ‘Frilly Kitty’ – Despite the fact that this hellebore sounds like a character from Japanese anime, it is actually a pretty elegant perennial. The fully double white frilly blooms have a hint of blush pink and emerge from pink buds. This member of the Spring Promise Series grows 45-60cm tall and 60cm wide, and is hardy to Zone 5.
• Helleborus x hybridus ‘Black Diamond’ – This Lenten Rose strain is guaranteed to provide you with the blackest of black hellebores. The single flowers range from slate purple to purplish-black and are nicely contrasted by golden yellow stamens that simply glow in the center – the new emerging foliage is also purple-tinted. Grows 45cm tall and 45-55 cm wide. Hardy to Zone 5.
Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (email@example.com).
• I’ve uploaded a new story – Daughters – to my garden blog at www.soulofagardener.wordpress.com and my plant selection site, www.mikesgardentop5plants.wordpress.com, also has a number of hellebore selections on it.