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Where the garden meets the wild

 

HELLEBORUS  HELLEBORE  Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family) 铁筷子属 

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Helleborus orientalis subsp. abchasicus.  Photograph Paige Woodward

Hellebore anatomy made simple.  Photograph of H. thibetanus Chris Klapwijk

Hellebores will grow in full sun, but they are among the best perennials for deciduous shade. They can seem to bloom for months. This is because

what look like flower petals are actually the long-lasting sepals of a modified calyx (the part that cups and supports the flower).  A hellebore's real flower is a ring of nectaries modified into short, tubular petals at the base of the sepals. As these petals age, they drop off (just like the petals of a rose). But the sepals and carpels last a long time (just like the calyx and hip of a rose). 

All that said, in ordinary conversation hellebore lovers refer to the sepals as the flower. We do the same in our descriptions here. 

Plant your hellebores in leafy duff or rich humus that never quite dries out. If your soil is very acid, give them dolomite. To minimize frost damage, place early risers on a cold-shedding slope and bury them in piles of leaves. In fall or winter, prepare for spring. Snip off the old, haggard leaves of deciduous species before new shoots emerge. If evergreen species become too lanky, cut them back, even to the ground. They will return with new vigor. 

The plants we offer are species, as currently defined. They are from wild seeds, either directly or as divisions. 

Species hellebores are rare in gardens, though many have contributed genes to cherished garden hybrids. Currently, 17 species are accepted. Discussions continue, however, for hybrids abound in the wild, populations intergrade and  exploration is incomplete.  


Helleborus abchasicus 

Helleborus abruzzicus

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Photographs Paige Woodward

Helleborus argutifolius Viviani. Corsican hellebore.  Argutifolius means "silver-leaved." We treasure this plant for the gleam of its leathery, serrated leaves. It produces tall wands of pale green flowers in January-March; to support them, we grow it through a peony hoop. Native to the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, H. argutifolius  is surprisingly hardy.  We have grown it for many years in reflected light against a N-facing wall. The origin of our mother plant is lost, but the seeds come true. Height to 90 cm (3'.). Evergreen to Zone 6; reported hardy to Zone 4. 

Flowering-size division. $15.00


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Photographs Paige Woodward

Helleborus atrorubens Waldstein & Kitaibel. The flowers, usually 2-3 per stem, bloom in February-March among coarsely serrated leaves divided into 3-5 fingers. Atrorubens means "dark red". The flowers of many of our plants are indeed a deep red-purple that glows ruby with the sun behind it. But the flower color varies considerably. Some of ours are dark with a celadon veil and one (shown here but not for sale) is a powdery turquoise-grey with cherry trim. This species is native to NW parts of the former Yugoslavia. We offer divisions of plants grown from seeds collected by Will McLewin (WM 9825) in what is now Croatia. Deciduous.  Height to 35 cm (14"). Zone 6. 

Flowering-size division. $18.00


Helleborus bocconei

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Photographs Paige Woodward

Helleborus croaticus Z. Martinis. Croatian hellebore. The purple flowers, blooming in January-March, resemble those of H. torquatus but are a little smaller. The leaves resemble those of  H. atrorubens. The stems, pedicels and bracts are  sprinkled with glandular hairs. This species is native to NE Croatia. We offer divisions of plants collected there by the Dutch plantsman Lon Doyen. Deciduous. Height to 38 cm (15"). Zone 6. 

Flowering-size division. $30.00


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Photographs Paige Woodward 

Helleborus cyclophyllus Boissier. Spring-flowering form. Yellow-green flowers, up to 7 per stem, bloom in February-March amid many-fingered leaves. Cyclophyllus means "wheel-leaved"; if laid on the ground, a mature leaf would fill a circle (more or less). Native to much of the S Balkans, this species is thought to be the "black hellebore" of the ancient Greeks. We offer divisions of plants collected by Antoine Hoog in 1991 (AH.9144) in central Greece on Mount Vardousia, where they were growing in subalpine meadow at 1400 m (4600'). This is similar to the more northerly H. odorus, but the carpels are free at the base. Deciduous. Height of leaves 20-25 cm (8-10"). Zone 6, possibly colder.  

Flowering-size division. $18.00


Helleborus cyclophyllus Boissier. Autumn-flowering form. This is similar to the previous plant, but it blooms in November. We offer divisions of plants collected by Antoine Hoog in 1989 (AH.8934) in central Greece on Mount Pilion. 

Flowering-size division. $18.00


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Photographs Paige Woodward 

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Photograph A.M.D. Hoog

Helleborus dumetorum Waldstein & Kitaibel ex Willdenow. Nodding green flowers with a glaucous cast, unscented and 3 or more per stem, bloom in February-March.  This is a true woodlander (dumetorum means "of hedges or bushy places"). It is native to a swathe from Croatia and Slovenia across Hungary and S Austria to perhaps as far as the Black Sea. Our plants are from seeds collected by Will McLewin (WM 0023) near Vargesztes, Hungary, in the Mescek Mountains.  Deciduous. Height 20-30 cm (8-12"). Zone 6. 

Flowering-size division. $15.00

 

 


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Photographs Paige Woodward

Helleborus foetidus Linnaeus 'Ruth' strain. Stinking hellebore. This evergreen beauty with dark, leathery, fingered leaves sends up wands of chartreuse flowers in January-March, very welcome at the beginning of the year. Sometimes the flowers have magenta lips. They do not stink at all. (If crushed, the leaves of some plants, but not all, may smell a little funky; but who crushes the leaves?) This species is native to woodlands across Europe. Our plants are from garden seeds that descend from 'Ruth,' a floriferous, dark green strain with particularly narrow fingers that was selected by Will McLewin.  We received our seeds from John Dudley, the Tasmanian hellebore breeder. Height to 90 cm (3'). Zone 6. 

Flowering-size root. $12.00


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Photographs Paige Woodward

Helleborus foetidus Linnaeus 'Red Silver' strain.  Stinking hellebore. With silver-blue leaves, red petioles and copious flowers heavily rimmed in red, 'Red Silver' is a knockout. At left you see it in our garden. Bloom time is February-March. Our 'Red Silver' came directly from Ernie and Marietta O'Byrne, who selected it at their nursery in Oregon. We offer open-pollinated seedlings of those plants. Evergreen. Height to 75 cm (30") 

Flowering-size root. $12.00


Helleborus hercegovinus

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Photographs A.M.D. Hoog

Helleborus multifidus Visiani subsp. bocconei (Tenore) B. Mathew. Sometimes called H. bocconei. Native to Italy, including Sicily, this plant is adapted to stony scrub and open woods at chilly elevations. Its leaves are dissected, but much more coarsely than in subsp. hercegovinus.  Our plants are from seeds collected by Will McLewin (WM9905) in W Sicily, S of Palermo. Height 20-36 cm (8-14"). Zone 6, perhaps colder. 

Flowering-size division. $25.00


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Photograph A.M.D. Hoog 

Helleborus aff. multifidus Visiani subsp. bocconei  (Tenore) B. Mathew extreme form (new subspecies?). Sometimes called H. abruzzicus.  Similar to the previous plant, but the leaves are more finely dissected. Our plants are from seeds collected by Will McLewin NE of Rome, in Italy's Lazio/Abruzzo region. Zone 6, perhaps colder.

Flowering-size division. $25.00


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Photograph A.M.D. Hoog 

Helleborus multifidus Visiani subsp. hercegovinus (Martinis) B. Mathew. This is the form of multifidus with the most dissected leaves, sometimes called H. hercegovinus. The nodding flowers are dusty lime green, the leaf segments serrated. It is native to the coastal mountains of Herzegovina, Montenegro and perhaps Albania.  Our plants are divisions of material collected at several sites in the Balkans. With us they emerge late, in March. Deciduous. Height 20-36 cm (8-14"). Zone 6, perhaps colder. 

Flowering-size division. $25.00


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Photographs Paige Woodward 

Helleborus niger Linnaeus. Christmas rose; Schneerose ("snow rose," German). Large, white, waxy, bowl-shaped flowers open in December-March (with us, in February), and later often flush pink, amid dark, leathery, pedate, evergreen leaves. Native to the S Balkans. Our plants are a seed strain traceable back to Slovenia. Deciduous. Height 15-20 cm (6-8"). Zone 4. 

Flowering-size division. $12.00


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Photograph A.M.D. Hoog

Helleborus occidentalis (Reuter) Schiffner tall form. Sometimes called H. viridis subsp. occidentalis. Fat, bright green flowers, up to 4 cm (1.5") wide, bloom in March-April. Native to W Europe, this good garden plant is a lover of deep shade and fairly slow-growing. Our robust stock, with very large leaves, are divisions of plants collected in Belgium by Jeannine and Michael Hoog (JMH 8134). Height 30-40 cm (12-16"). Deciduous. Zone 6. 

Flowering-size division.  $13.00


 

 

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Photographs Paige Woodward 

Helleborus occidentalis (Reuter) Schiffner short form. This plant is only half as big as the previous one, making it ideal for pot culture and shaded rock gardens. The leaves and sometimes the outer sepals are coarsely saw-toothed. We offer divisions of plants collected in E Belgium by Jeannine and Michael Hoog (JMH 8901). Height 15-20 cm (6-8"). Deciduous. Zone 6. 

Not available this season. 


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Photographs Paige Woodward 

Helleborus orientalis Cars. ex Nyman subsp. orientalis. Lenten rose. Large flowers, white shading to green and up to 4 per stem, bloom in March above dark green, leathery, pedate leaves. This species is native to many habitats across NW Greece, Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia. We offer divisions of plants from seeds collected in the Caucasus N of Tbilisi in Georgia. Deciduous. Height to 36 cm (14").   Zone 6, perhaps colder. 

Flowering-size division. $20.00


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Photographs Paige Woodward 

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Photograph  A.M.D. Hoog

Helleborus orientalis subsp. abchasicus (A.Braun ) B. Mathew. Lenten rose. Nodding flowers of good size that are rose, red or purple bloom in February-March above coarsely toothed, wide-fingered, leathery leaves that often start out black or purple. This species is native to the W Caucasus Range. We offer divisions of plants grown from seeds collected by Will McLewin (WM 9607). Deciduous. Height to 45 cm (18"). Zone 5. 

Flowering-size division. $25.00


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Photographs Paige Woodward 

Helleborus purpurascens Waldstein & Kitaibel. Big, nodding, cup-shaped flowers, 2-4 per stem and up to 7 cm (3") across, bloom in January-March. Purple-violet with a bloom of buff or grey, the first flowers may open at ground level as the stem rises. The palmate, coarsely serrated leaves, sometimes as wide as the plant is tall, radiate from the top of the petiole. They may be dark if they emerge in very cold weather, but green up (alas) eventually. This species is native to the Carpathian Range in Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. We offer divisions of plants collected by Lon Doyen in Hungary's Bkk Mountains, a karst region. Deciduous. Height in flower 20 cm (8"). Zone 6. 

Flowering-size division. $16.00


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Photographs Paige Woodward 

Helleborus thibetanus Franchet. Chinese hellebore.  铁筷子属 Tie kuai zi shu kuai zi shu (Chinese). チベタヌス (Japanese).  This deciduous beauty is the lone hellebore of eastern Asia. It is native to open montane forests in the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Hubei, Shaanxi and Sichuan. Thibetanus means "Tibetan," of course; here "greater Tibet" seems to be meant, the realm of Tibetan culture, which extends far beyond Tibet proper. The coarsely toothed leaves of this species are divided into 7-10 segments. The "flowers" start out white or pale pink, blush deeper pink as they ripen, then fade toward white again. This treasure will vanish by summer to return in January, bronze stems splitting the cold ground. Height to 40 cm (16"). Zone 6, possibly colder. 

Not available this season. 


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Photographs Paige Woodward 

Helleborus torquatus Archer-Hind. This species, specially valued for its fingered leaves, has flowers that are purple outside, and purple shading to green inside. It blooms in February-March and is native to much of the former Yugoslavia. Our plants, dark with a celadon to turquoise interior, are divisions of plants collected by Antoine Hoog (AH 9115) in what is now Serbia & Montenegro, near Mojkovac. They were at 950 m (3100') elevation on a N-facing slope in beech woods, in deep soil; their companions included Crocus vernus and Hepatica nobilis. Height 20-40 cm (8-16"). Deciduous. Zone 6.    

Flowering-size division. $20.00


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Photograph  A.M.D. Hoog

Helleborus vesicarius Aucher ex Boissier. Seldom seen in cultivation, this hellebore is native to hot, dry, stony, alkaline fields and scrub in SE Turkey and neighboring Syria. Vesicarius means "inflated like a bladder", a reference to its lantern-like seed pods. This plant survives by going dormant in summer. Like the bulbs of the same region, it starts growth with the autumn rains, blooms in spring and then goes dormant again. Although its dormant period is hot and rainless, deep down in the soil its fleshy roots remain moist. Unless you can supply these conditions outdoors, grow it in a glasshouse.  Our stock is from seeds collected by Edouard Hanslik near Gaziantep in SE Turkey in 2000. H. vesicarius does look like celery in a way, you're right. Height to 60 cm (24"). Deciduous. Zone 7? 

Flowering-size division. $30.00


Helleborus viridis 

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This page was updated March 18, 2008