Hellebores: Recent Forms

hellebores-2014.jpgI have only been growing helleborus orientalis in my garden for 10 years or so.  Why I was so late adding them to me garden is a mystery.  Perhaps they were done blooming by the time I started haunting nurseries for plants.  I may have missed them.  Perhaps the time it took a hellebore to grow into a decent sized blooming plant was too long to make commercial production widespread.  Whatever the reason, I am a fan now.  They are sturdy plants with thick leather like foliage.  Many of them are hardy in zone 4, which means very hardy. They thrive in light to medium shade, and like alkaline soil-perfect for my yard. In a mild winter, the foliage is evergreen.  The color of the petals eventually fade, but they hold onto the stalk for a long time after the flower is spent.  In June my plants will look like they are covered with green flowers.  My plants are a strain grown from seed called Royal Heritage mix.  This mix has been around for a fairly long time, and produces somewhat muted flowers from dark purple to pink, white and green.
double hellebore.jpgHellebores increase in size slowly, so the prices for good size plants can be considerable.  The flowers emerge on leafless stalks in early spring-late March or early April in my yard.  The new season’s leaves come from the ground after the flowering cycle is over.  They are long lived, and make dense clumps some 18 inches tall or so.  They are willing seeders, should you have the mind to grow them on.  The species helleborus orientalis features nodding flowers,  meaning they face down.  You would have to get down on the ground to look up into their faces, or cut the flowers and float them in a bowl.

yellow hellebore.jpgOne can now find varieties with yellow flowers-shocking,  this development. The first yellow hellebore I ever saw in person-I could not take my eyes off of it. This development was only the beginning.  Breeders in Japan, England, Canada and the US  (and no doubt in many other countries) are breeding plants with double flowers. Spots.  picotee forms.  unusual colors. Helleborus Black Oddyssey is just that-an inky black.  Helleborus Ivory Price is a strong grower, and features flowers that face up.  Michigan hybridizer Chris Hansen is responsible for breeding a breathtakingly beautiful group of hellebores known as “Winter Thrillers”.  Improved flower color, flower size, plant vigor, and foliage are the trademark of these plants.  He has been breeding hellebores for over 15 years; his newer introductions are stunning.  There is a wealth of information about hellebores on line now.  If you are interested, make a cup of coffee, and explore.

double hellebore.jpgI have never been so much a fan of double flowers.  The singles just appeal to me more.  This is a preference that is being challenged by the new varieties of double hellebores.  A flower such as this is very hard to pass by.  A fan of double bloodroot might well be taken with this hellebore.  Many of the newer named hellebores are available via the technology of tissue culture.  Helleborus orientalis hybrids of old were all seed strains.  No technology existed to exactly reproduce a particular plant.  Not that I do not treasure seed strains of hellebores.  There is always the chance of once in a lifetime spectacular plant.  No one discusses the beauty of seed strains better than Carolyn from Carolyn’s Shade Garden.

hellebore-Anna's-Red.jpgA love for seed strains of hellebores implies a gardener that can successfully bring on seedlings or grow successfully from seed (I am thinking Joseph Tychonievich who grows for Arrowhead Alpines in Michigan)-or that gardener who is intrigued by the prospect of a seedling that is yet to flower.  Not your thing?  Lots of hellebores are available true to name-meaning they are being reproduced by tissue culture.  I do have a few plants from my Royal heritage mix that are extraordinary in plant habit and bloom-others are not so swell.  This named cultivar, Anna’s Red, is an outstanding plant.  It was named after Anna Pavord, UK gardener and writer.

hybrid-hellebore.jpgNo matter what you might fancy, there is probably a hellebore that will appeal to you.  Hellebores, in my opinion, are part of that group of plants that I call fancy plants.  Fancy, as in new hybrids of hosta.  Fancy, as in unusual.  Like the Rembrandt tulips-although their news is now centuries old.  Lots of rare and gorgeous plants that gardeners are prone to become besotted over are not such great growers.  But I feel convinced that the new hybrids of hellebores are rugged plants. I feel confident in saying any effort you make to grow them will be rewarded.

anemone-flowered-hellebore.jpg I have never seen one that did not make my heart pound a little faster.  This single flower with an anemone center-wow.  Though I have always favored green or white single flowered hellebores, I see no good reason not to change my mind.   Interested further?  The book “Hellebores – A Comprehensive Guide”,  written by C. Colston Burrell and Judith Knott Tyler is a  classic.  Judith’s nursery, Pine Knott Farms, is a major supplier of fine hellebores.  Even a casual internet search will provide lots of information and sources for this stellar spring blooming perennial.

double-white-hellebore.jpgRob always has a fresh idea for Detroit Garden Works.  This winter has been so severe and so long, I doubt anyone will be turning over the dirt much in March.  The freezing and snowy landscape notwithstanding, every gardener will be ready to talk plants the first day we hit 40 degrees.  He has a plan for a big opportunity for some gardening conversation.  In late March, we will have over 600 hellebores available for review and purchase.  A helleborus Festivalis.

hellebore-hybrid.jpgEvery gardener has a big interest in plants.  The plants are a bridge where every gardener of every persuasion might meet.  That bridge is a place to be.  A chance to move from where we are, given a little conversation and exchange, to where or how we might want to be gardening.  We hope you are able to join us March 22nd and 23rd  at Detroit Garden Works for a little taste of the spring to come.

pink-double-hellebore.jpgA double pink hellebore might be just the thing to chase away the late winter blues.






  1. I just bought 8 of these…………as they “spoke” to me.I forget the name I purchased but the flower is white!I would like a few yellow too…….thank you will search for the yellow now!

  2. I love Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. I am lucky enough to be able to ride to the garden in about 10 minutes. Her plants are beautiful and it is always inspiring to walk around her garden.

  3. Jamie Olivarez says

    I have Ivory Prince and love it so much that it made the move from Lansing to Oakland County 3 years ago. I added Foetidus to my garden last year but have yet to see it bloom.
    I have a vision of them blooming right now under 4 feet of snow. Oh well, I can dream…

  4. For flower arrangers out there, I dried leaves from my largest hellebore at the end of last gardening season. They are beautiful and sturdy and also take spray-painted color very well.
    Can’t wait to see how much bigger they will be this year.

  5. I just put the helleborus Festivalis on my calendar.See you then. This will be a great excuse to buy my 1st hellebore.

  6. Starr Foster says

    Hello Deborah,
    Great to hear more of hellebores, the practically perfect plant! Wonderful photos as always. I will be sure to be there for your Hellebore Display in March. I have been reading the Hellebore book you mentioned; it’s very interesting and is a font of information. Last year I bought some unusual snowdrops from Carolyn’s shade garden. Her blog is a beautiful, the only other one I subscribe to. I am looking forward to seeing your window boxes this year and all your other annual plantings.

  7. Ahh, your pictured hellebores…what a buffet of beauty! As I sit at my kitchen table on this sleety day, I feel spoiled, nevertheless, because I am looking out on some hellebore foetidus “flower” heads starting to chartreuse up. Seeing their show of color always puts a smile on my face.

  8. madeline foster says

    Loving this sunny day but anxious for the snow to melt so I can enjoy my helio’s patch.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Madeline, as I recall you had quite a collection of yellow hellebores – they should be beautiful-when spring come!

  9. That one with the lavender edge is a stunner! In the beginning I thought I had favorites but it doesn’t take long to fall in love with every new Hellebore you see. Thanks for this luscious treat.

  10. Beautiful pics and flowers! Will now add some of these to my garden. Wish I could be there at your Open House – live too far away. Can I purchase from you/website? Will you ship to DE?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Trish, We ship all the time. Let me know if I can help with this. Thanks, Deborah

      • Susan Roubal says

        Shipping is such wonderful news!! The U.P. is also quite far away! What a winter- makes me glad I ignored the new “re-zoning” by the USDA!

      • Hi Deborah. Yes! I would like your help and direction on this. I am very interested in purchasing some of your hellebores. Should I do this via the Detroit Garden Works website or call the nursery? Shipping is to Delaware. Please advise.

        • Deborah Silver says

          Dear Trish, we have 400 plants arriving in the morning. Let me get those arranged with all the others, so Rob and I can send you some pictures. (We are sold out of our first batch of double flowering hellebores) You’ll hear from me tomorrow. Thanks, Deborah

  11. Simply superb. I really wonder how these flowers will look like if those are plant inside window boxes. Thanks for presenting a brilliant post and photos. My personal favorite among the flowers is Hellebores by the way.

  12. Janice Casper says

    Thank you for that breath of spring! My hellebore patch is still under a few feet of snow even after the last two days of thaw. Can’t wait!! I have many seedlings and wait in anticipation for them to flower. I’m pleased with all of them.
    Do you know the name of the one that was the last picture you showed on your blog?
    I will look for H. “Anna’s Red’. Is it from Arrowhead Alpine’s?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Janice, the last hellebore is Anna’s Red. You would have to call Arrowhead, as I don’t know what hellebores they carry. We are sold out of Anna’s Red. Thanks, Deborah

  13. Wish you were closer to me, The plants and pots work very well together. My clients would love these.

  14. Thank you for spreading the word on the wonderful world of hellebores! We plant them in every garden can! Will be sure to come early to buy for all our spring containers, and to visit your lovely, lovely store.

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