Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

100 Flowers : #010 Hellebore or Lenten Rose

It comes in so many variations . . .


#010 : Helleborus orientalis (and relations)

Hellebore or Lenten Rose


When we moved here 15 years ago I planted lots of Hellebores, seedlings from friends & families' gardens and purchases from specialist nurseries. I thought Hellebores would thrive in the shrubby borders . . . they did OK for a while and I grew more from the seeds they produced - but, the North facing border was too dark, damp and chilly and the East facing border was too dry during the drought years (remember them?) so there are very few plants remaining. 

Happily the past two years of wet weather and this mild Winter has brought the Hellebores we still have into flower early and I'm reminded how lovely they are.


Helleborus orientalis (a species originating from the Orient or East) is what most people think of as 'the' Hellebore, the flowers hang their heads down, so the only way to appreciate their individual colours and markings is to crawl on the ground or pick the flowers and float them on water in a shallow dish . . . or as I did, lay my iPad under the plant and do a botanical-selfie. I know this is a Helleborus Orientalis, it's one of the original plants I bought from a nursery, but the one below is a seedling I grew and it's a bit different - the petals (or to be correct, sepals - the actual petals are the rosette of little lime green tubes at the centre of the flower) are stiff and more rounded and the flower head doesn't droop over. This is a cross between H. Orientalis and another species, maybe the native British 'Stinking Hellebore', H. Foetidus which we also have growing nearby. Hellebores aren't choosy, so if you let them self-seed you can get all sorts of interesting variations, and if you're very lucky, you may get something very very special . . . like these!


What does Hellebore mean? Good question! One theory is that it is from Greek 'hellos' meaning a fawn and 'bora' meaning food, but as the plants are smelly and toxic this seems a bit strange! Alternatively it could be from 'hele' which means to take away/remove - to remove food, to make sick . . . nice! All Hellebores are very poisonous if digested, so I wouldn't recommend feeding them to your pet fawn, or anybody else for that matter.

I rather like the common name for Helleborus orientalis, Lenten Rose. Just as Christmas Rose is used as the common name for H. niger, it describes when the flowers appear. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, the exact dates vary from year to year, but roughly it's from late February to Early April. This year Lent starts on 5th March (get ready for Pancake Day next week!)

To add to the Hellebore genetic soup in our borders, I couldn't resist buying two new plants the other day, they are new hybrids H. nigercors (crosses between Christmas Rose (H. niger) and the Corsican Hellebore which has stout stalks baring many flowers) and another H. ericsmithii, which also has genes from H. lividus. I'd seen variations of these new hybrid Hellebores in plantings around the Cambridge University Sidgewick site, and they look stunning over many weeks - even when the flowers fade the sturdy creamy-green of the sepals remain above the the dark almost metalic blue-green leaves.



I chose a beautiful cream one (above) which is tinged with pink as the flowers age, this is H. nigercors 'Emma', and the other is H. ericsmithii 'Pirouette' which has deep pink flowers which fade to very pale pink. There are dozens of buds, so they should flower for many weeks.



I wonder if I'll get some interesting seedlings from these?


BTW, I had some assistance with taking the photos for this post . . .




Celia
xx

I'll add some of the photos to my #100Flowers Pinterest board.

24 comments:

  1. I love the seedlings as it's always such a surprise as to what they'll look like. I inherited all of mine so I have no idea of their names, but each year I get more. Great to see a feathered selfie!

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    1. Cheep does like to be in the picture!

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  2. Anothe rold favourite I cannot grow here! But, if I could, I'd be very, very tempted by Pirouette...

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    1. The new varieties have't quite got the delicate charm of the old Hellebores, but they put of a great show and I can see them from my desk in the studio.

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  3. *waves hello to the hen* I enjoy Hellebore blooms, they call to mind garden parties.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Cheep will not be amused to be called a hen :-)))
      Garden parties? mmm a chilly time of year for those!

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  4. So very lovely.
    One of my most favorite flowers.

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    Replies
    1. I love them too - the tiny variations in patterns a petals are fascinating.

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  5. Hellebores are such beautiful flowers, and they bloom at just the right time too, when we're fed up with winter and looking forward to spring. I picked up a bargain plant in the market in December, just £2.45 and it's still blooming away. It was just labelled as Hellebore but I think it's a hellebore Niger.

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    Replies
    1. That does sound a bargain Jo! Hope it does well.

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  6. One of my favourite flowers

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    1. Mine too, the details inside the flowers look like stitching.

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  7. Celia, here's another hellebore fan checking in. Your selfie photo made me smile, and I thank you for that imaginative way to show us the flowers' beauty.

    It's interesting how recent years have added and subtracted from your hellebore assembly. I do like the looks of your most recent additions to the fold.

    We've just had two days' worth of NYC temps over 10 C, and the chill returns to town tomorrow. I hope to get over to Central Park tomorrow (post thaw, pre freeze) to see what might be in bloom.

    xo

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    1. The iPad is very versatile for photographing plants and you can see exactly what the result will be. Hope you are staying warm in your extreme winter.

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  8. What beautiful seedlings you have Celia. I love that hazy, pink splattered one. I want to pot up some of our seedlings and move them or pass them on but the ground is still too wet to disturb them, I think I'd be dismayed if I gave one away and it turned out like yours but that's the fun of it all. Another fascinating post!

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    1. It is fun waiting and seeing if a new seedling is a special one... we have a lot of Hellebore plants yet to flower, maybe next year?

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  9. Interesting post, and beautiful pictures! I'm new to the blog and I really like the style and your style of writing. I look forward to more posts :)

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    1. Hope this isn't a spam comment - giving you the benefit of the doubt, but I have my suspicions.

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  10. Hello Celia,

    Hellebores really are the most wonderful of early spring flowers and the ones you show here look truly delightful. Given that they are happy in their plating place, they reward year after year with a most generous display of colour and form when the rest of the garden is still slumbering on.

    In our gardening days (no longer) we grew many varieties and were particularly fond of the 'blacks' and doubles. Our place of pilgrimage was the nursery of Helen Ballard in Worcestershire who was a prodigious breeder of Hellebores. When buying plants from her she merely dug them out of the earth and wrapped them in paper to take home....perfect!

    We have signed as followers and should you wish to know more about us we are a mere click away.

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    1. Welcome to PPPs,
      How lucky that you had Hellebores from Helen Ballard!
      I hope you'll pop in again as I blog about more of the #100Flowers.

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