Shaping perfection

An expanded version of the article in The Garden (February 2001)

Hellebores in the future

Over the decades reports have occasionally surfaced of hybrids between H. niger and H. orientalis and although these usually prove not to be hybrids there is more definite evidence from France of a true hybrid which could lead to a whole new class of plants.

Crossing yellow-leaved forms of H. foetidus with red-stemmed forms like ‘Wester Flisk’ could lead to the development of spectacular foliage plants with the vigour to thrive in the garden.

The arrival in Britain of H. thibetanus from China has created a flurry of interest. Home-grown plants are now available but opinions differ as to the advisability of crossing them with the Orientalis Hybrids: some say their small flowers and long germination to flowering period will only contribute negative characteristics… another breeder expects to introduce such hybrids soon. And the original Chinese supplier reports red-flowered and variegated forms.

A hybrid between H. thibetanus and H. niger was launched at the RHS London Flower Show in January 2001. ‘Pink Ice’ was bred by Philip Baulk at Ashwood Nurseries and has white flowers prettily veined in pink delightful marbled foliage.

And finally, remembering that double flowered Orientalis Hybrids are formed when nectaries develop into petals, I asked a number of breeders with single-flowered, dark-nectaried plants about crossing them into doubles to produce two-tone doubles: these are, it seems, on the way.

Orientalis hybrids
Doubles and anemone-centred forms
Stemmed hellebores
Niger and its hybrids
Hellebores in North America

Words ©Graham Rice or © Graham Rice/Elizabeth Strangman 1993-2001. Pictures ©Graham Rice/ unless stated. All Rights Reserved.