Plant of the Month: March 2021

Hellebore Love!

by Pat Hunter

 I do love Hellebores.

In February 2019, I went to Ashwood Nursery (Yes, the one that we were meant to be visiting for our Day Trip last year) for a conducted tour to see “behind the scenes” to view the stock plants, and the different species they use to produce their beautiful Hellebores.

Our tour started in the stock greenhouse where there were benches of beautiful flowering Hellebores.

These are the stock plants from which they cross pollinate to make the wonderful variety of colours that become the Ashwood garden hybrids.

The latest breakthrough in their Hellebore range being the  Ashwood Evolution Group, which have pale lime green leaves ( which can look a bit sickly- a personal comment) but the flower colours are something else!

Howard Drury

After the stock plant greenhouse, Howard Drury, our tour guide, explained to us the different species of Hellebore and their crosses.

They do say the Ashwood garden hybrids are exclusive to their nursery but they do also, in the talk, give praise to the breeding work of Rodney Davey and the marbled series. Names that are now well known – Anna’s Red, Pippa’s Purple, Penny’s Pink.

Hellebores are mainly evergreen perennial plants in the Ranunculaceae family from deciduous woodland in Europe and Asia.

This makes them ideal for gardens in the UK.


So now to my garden, I have 3 main areas of Hellebores; behind the house, which is north-facing, under a mature Oak tree and the third area is on top of a 6 foot high wall – this makes it very easy to show off the flowers.

Helleborus foetidus

One of the easiest Hellebores throughout my gardening life has been Helleborus foetidus, this self seeds around the garden, but is very easy to remove if it doesn’t fall in the right place. I have never quite managed to get the strain “Wester Flisk” with red stems or “Gold Bullion” with chartreuse green new foliage. I must try harder this year!

The first ones to flower this winter were Harvington double white, such a clean white.

Harvington Double White

Helleborus sternii, which is growing in a pot under the pergola as it is meant to be slightly more tender, flowers at the same time.

Helleborus sternii

This interspecies hybrid has now been bred with silver leaved varieties and used in breeding to produce the x ericsmithii hybrid which is a cross using H. niger, so it is hardy.

Springfield seedling

This is the other one that was flowering for New Year, and in my New Year flower count, a speckled hybrid.

Anna’s Red – buds

There is promise of more to come:

Meanwhile, just to show how adaptable Hellebores are, this is a Winter pot by the front door with Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Carol’ and Helleborus x sternii ‘Silver Dollar’.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus niger is the next to flower, with a much waxier leaf. Just look at those leaf edges –

(vine weevil?)


It is now into February and the Hellebores are in full flowering mode,

Walberton’s Rosemary is a firm favourite. It looks outward and the clump increases well.

Anna’s Red finally gets round to flowering (see the buds with the snow earlier).

Anna’s Red

The others around the garden include some of the many hybrids, double speckled.

Blotched,

One from the Evolution group,

And finally the Springfield seedlings, these are my hybrids. I do not help with any crosses, they are small plants that are grown on in the garden until they flower, at which point I either keep them or discard depending on their colours and markings.

Hellebores do not work well as cut flowers in the house but they are often displayed in a bowl of water.

A bowl at Springfield on 24th February.

But a giant pot at Ashwood nursery!

Pat Hunter

Pictures courtesy of Pat Hunter

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