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E-Newsletter: February 2008
Phoenix Perennials E-Newsletter
from Phoenix Perennials!
here, fellow gardeners, the Hellebore Hurrah! Mark
your calendars, cancel all of your appointments,
call your friends and come on down. We have prepared
for you a sumptuous feast of colour and spring bliss.
This will be the last big year with the Heronswood
Hellebores. Come see what they can be. In addition
to the one gallon pots we've got a bunch of them
in huge three gallon pots brimming with giant plants
in full glorious bloom. At the Hurrah! this year
you'll also get a taste of hellebores from other
breeders and from Mother Nature.
second article in the e-newsletter is all about hellebores.
There is a discussion of the difference between seed
strains and tissue cultured cultivars, a description
three main forms of hellebore flowers (singles, doubles
and anemone centres), and an explanation of the pricing
of our hellebores at the Hellebore Hurrah!
in the e-newsletter we announce the winner of a workshop
for two during the 2008 season which was randomly
drawn from the respondents to our question of what
would you like to learn in 2008. There is also a
note on two upcoming talks I'll be giving at the
BC Home and Garden Show.
Gary and the Phoenicians
In this Issue
1. The Hellebore Hurrah!: Celebrating early spring and all things Hellebore
2. A Few Notes on Selecting Hellebores
3. Workshops 2008: What Do You Want
to Learn? Contest Winner
4. Gary Speaking at the BC Home
and Garden Show
Celebrating early spring and all
February 22nd, 23rd and 24th, 2008
(Note: This is one week earlier than last year.)
It keeps getting better
and better, fellow hellebore enthusiasts. There are
times for modesty but this isn't one of them!
yourselves for what very well could be the largest
and most exciting selection of hellebores ever offered
year we bring you once again a great selection of
Heronswood Hellebores (we were able to secure plants
for one more year). We also bring you choice plants
from two different hellebore specialists, Pine Knot
Farms and the reigning queen of the hellebore, Marietta
O'Byrne. For the extra sophisticated among you we
will also offer a selection of rare and uncommon
species hellebores as young plants. Mark your calendars!
You won't want to miss this weekend!
are most of the hellebores that will be offered at
The Heronswood Hellebores
Heronswood Double White Strain - Pure
white double flowers and lush, mid green foliage. Elegant
'Kingston Cardinal' - Luscious
raspberry-red flowers atop red stems with burgundy-infused
young foliage. Heart-stopping, mind-blowing, plant-lusting
spectacular! Tissue cultured so every plant is identical.
Heronswood Double Pink Strain -
Perfect in pink. Lovely double pink flowers and lush,
dark green foliage.
Heronswood Double Purple Strain - Rich,
warm purple, double flowers with burgundy-infused stems
Heronswood Single Purple Strain - Dark,
rich, warm purple flowers. Burgundy-infused foliage.
Heronswood Single Maroon Strain - Dark,
brooding, and fantastic, rich maroon flowers, some
with creamy yellow central highlights and dark nectaries.
Heronswood Single Apricot Strain -
Unique sunset tones with shades of pink, peach, yellow
and cream changing as the flowers age.
Single Red Strain -
Big, bold red flowers with amazing intensity of colour.
Single Yellow Strain - Pale to buttery yellow single
flowers, some with clear petals, others with red spots.
Heronswood Slate Strain -
My favourite. Dark purple-blue flowers with a slate
sheen. You have to see it to believe it. And just to
send you right over the edge: the leaflets on the flowering
stems are the same slate-black colour as the flowers!
Other Heronswood Singles - Pink and White -
Big flowers, clear colours, robust plants.
Finch' - Broadly rounded petals of soft green-yellow
spotted with multitudes of tiny red ochre flecks,
centered with a deeper lime green. Pairs beautifully
with red-flowered hellebores like Heronswood Single
Red and 'Kingston Cardinal' which helps to accentuate
'Gold Finch's' beautiful spots. Tissue cultured so
every plant is identical.
White'/'Snow Bunting' - This Heronswood
cultivar has pure white flowers with pointed tips
over rich dark green foliage. Tissue cultured so
every plant is identical.
H. x nigercors 'Green Heron' -
This Heronswood hybrid between H. niger and H.
argutifolius will lighten
even the dark corners of the garden with large white
flowers with lime and emerald highlights. Dark green
leathery foliage. Tissue cultured so every plant is
O'Byrne is considered one of the best Hellebore
hybridizers in the world. We are pleased to be one
of the first nurseries in Canada to offer her handiwork.
These plants are still young and should flower for
the first time in 2009.
Yellow Strain -
This wonderful group of single yellows
will sometimes offer up the occasional apricot
surprise. Some are splashed with spots and others have
picotee edges. The colour in this image may be slightly
darker than real life but as one of the best breeders
in the world her yellows are still among the best available
at this point in hellebore breeding.
Strain - Brushstroke
splashes, spots, and true, rich colours adorn the wide
petals of this superior group.
Ruffles Strain - This
double strain offers every colour imaginable with
picotees, splashed forms, and the rich colours
that are Marietta's trademark. The plants we offer
will bloom for the first time in 2009. The percentage
of plants that will have double flowers will be
in the 90's but, because this is a strain, not
all will turn out double. There is a small chance
that you may end up with a very special single.
We cannot guarantee double flowers.
The Pine Knot
Belles Strain - This beautiful strain is derived
from hand pollinating the best double and semi-double
(anemone centred) plants in a full range of colours
at Pine Knot Farms in Virginia. Double crosses come
90-95% true and semi-double 75% true. This means
a small percentage of plants will turn out to be
single once they reach blooming size. Unfortunately,
we cannot guarantee double or semi-double plants
as this is the nature of seed strains but the gamble
has good odds that you’ll get a real treasure!
Dreams Black' - Luscious is the best word
to describe this exciting cultivar. The single flowers
are deepest purple black held above foliage that emerges
with rich tones of burgundy. Tissue
cultured so all plants will be identical.
by Mother Nature
these charming plants growing in their native habitats
in the wild fields, forests and mountains of Mediterranean
are where our hybrid hellebores come from, usually
derived from complex crosses of multiple species.
Most of these plants are small and in four inch pots.
They will bloom in 2009 (or 2010) with good TLC.
lividus 'Elegance' - 'Elegance' is a
new selection of the uncommon H. lividus,
a less hardy species than the other hellebores
which should still do well in our relatively
benign climate (it is hardy in zone 8). The gorgeous
glossy green leaves are highlighted with creamy
silver veins and held up by pinkish purple leaf
stalks. Long purplish green stems bear bowl-shaped
creamy green flowers with a mauve-pink blush.
In all quite a little plant treasure. In bloom
atrorubens - Dark green basal foliage
with stems and foliage often suffused with purple when
young. The flowers are outward facing, saucer-shaped,
and usually deep purple with green shadings within.
Less showy than the colourful hybrids but demure and
elegant in its own right. This species hails from a
small area in Slovenia and northern Croatia where it
grows with H. dumetorum.
This hellebore is described as the “third
of the purple flowered species.” Only
two were known until 1973 when H. croaticus was discovered. It is rare in cultivation as
well as in the wild occuring only in northeast
Croatia. This species has purple flowers with
green highlights and is similar to H. atrorubens . The plants are relatively large and lush.
The leaves can be fairly dissected offering
a larger number of lobes and hence a subtly
more interesting foliage effect than the hybrids.
dumetorum - This rare species has
charming pale green flowers on robust clumps
of lush foliage. It is a strong grower, useful
in the landscape and demure in the woodland garden.
It occurs in Slovenia, western Hungary, southwest
Austria, northern Croatia, and probably parts
multifidus - This beautiful and
uncommon hellebore, similar to and often confused
with H. torquatus, is much loved by those who
know it for its numerous narrow divided leaflets.
A good clump looks like a mini oasis of palm
trees! The flowers are green and look lovely
held above or peaking out of the foliage. Also
intriguing: its native habitat suggests that
H. multifidus will likely do well in the drier,
hotter, sunnier spots of your garden. Croatia,
Hercegovina, and possibly Albania.
odorus - The most vigorous of the
green flowered species hellebores, H. odorus lives up to its name with fragrant two to three
inch saucer-shaped outward facing flowers. Fragrance
can vary from plant to plant and depends on the
warmth of the day. From central Europe.
purpurascens - This deciduous hellebore
is a wonderful ornamental species for the shade
or woodland garden. The large flowers are colourful
ranging from reddish purple to greenish brown
often with pink, blue or slate tones mixed in.
The leafy bracts might also have burgundy tones.
Native to Romania, Hungary, eastern Czechoslovakia,
Poland, and the Ukraine.
torquatus - This is a controversial
'species' botanically and may in future get swallowed
by H. multifidus (to which it is very similar)
or get renamed as its relationship to other species
becomes better understood. Taxonomy aside this
is a fabulous foliage plant with many multipley
divided leaflets. The flower colour ranges from
deep purple to green with many combinations in
between. Slow to bulk up so plant in part sun
and rich soil. Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro.
viridis - This rare species makes
an attractive garden plant. It is a larger hellebore
with good lush growth and a similar habit to
H. purpurascens. The flowers, as its name suggests,
are apple green and present a subtle beauty in
the shade garden. H. viridis occurs in a more
westerly range than many of the other species
in Austria, northern Italy, southern Germany,
Switzerland, and France.
This vigorous hybrid hellebore offers at least
two and a half months of floral interest followed
by a whole year of great foliage. In February
the plump pink buds develop. By March the flowers
open to reveal large creamy petals with dusky
pink reverses and green centres. By April the
cream colour deepens to green and dusty rose.
The leathery evergreen foliage is subtly mottled
and held aloft by red stems.
x nigercors 'White
White and creamy white flowers become green with age
and are held over lush, leathery dark green foliage.
x ericsmithii 'Pink
A vigorous cultivar similar to 'Ivory Prince' with
white flowers flushed with dusty rose as they age.
Vigorous and floriferous, plants quickly establish
and soon can produce over 100 flowers.
argutifolius 'Silver Lace' -
This stunning cultivar of the already dramatic
Corsican hellebore has beautiful silver leaves.
Lovely cup-shaped, apple-green flowers top the
stems and foliage in early spring brightening
even the gloomiest days of March.
x sternii 'Hot Flash' - Silvered and red veined,
this outstanding evergreen Hellebore sports deeply serrate
edges and red stems to create a colourful package! Blooms
in late winter to early spring with pale green flowers
blushed with pink.
Betty Ranicar Strain - This stunning,
heavily double, snow white hellebore strain is
very special, extremely vigorous and floriferous
(up to 100 blooms on a mature plant). ‘Mrs.
found by chance in a garden in Tasmania and named
after a fine Tasmanian plantswoman. Usually more
than 95% double.
Heritage Strain -
This hellebore strain offers a wide
range of sumptuous colors (purple, red, near-black,
white, green, pink and even yellow) captured by
2-inch flowers with overlapping petals. The flowers
may also have spotting and picotee edges. Priced
at the lower end of the hellebore price scale,
the Royal Heritage Strain is great for mass plantings
or when your budget can't quite keep up with your
Vision Strain - This lovely strain offers
a lower percentage of doubled hellebores than some
strains but a better chance of getting an anemone-centred
flower with clusters of small petals held within
a cup of five petals (see the explanation in the
next article below), a rarer occurrence than even
a double hellebore! Plants from this strain turn
out 1/3 double, 1/3 anemone-centred, and 1/3 single.
We cannot guarantee the flower form of unbloomed
you at the Hellebore Hurrah! for these and a few
Make It?: If you are unable to attend the
Hellebore Hurrah! there will certainly be more hellebores
available afterwards. If you would like to make sure
you acquire a desired plant(s) you can call the nursery
between February 11th and February 21st and give
us your order, your credit card information and your
sworn affidavit that you really will not be able
to make it that weekend. We will select a nice specimen(s)
for you and hold it until you can pick it up.
Because the first day of the Hurrah! is a Friday and many people have to work we will hold back a quantity of the more rare plants for Saturday so that they will be available on both Friday and Saturday.
Few Notes on Selecting Hellebores
every hellebore offered has been derived from seed
strains since hellebores bulk up slowly and resent
being divided. Seed strains are carefully bred
lines that are maintained over time to assure as
much uniformity as possible in selected characterisitics
which include flower
and foliage colour, flower size, flower
set, degree of doubling, petal shape, petal spotting
and picoteeing (having a darker edge), colour of
the nectaries, habit, vigour,
For instance, the Heronswood Slate strain was bred
to maintain deep purple flowers with a satiny sheen,
foliage with similar dark tones and great vigour.
Less specific in nature, the Royal Heritage strain
is a quite varied strain bred to offer a wide range
of colours with flowers that are more outward (rather
than downward) facing.
strains have been bred with different qualities
of genetic material as starting points and differing
levels of attention and skill from their breeders.
Consequently, not all strains are created equal.
The Heronswood Hellebores, for instance, are bred
to extremely high standards while the Royal Heritage
strain is bred to more average standards. Compare
the three gallon Heronswood singles to the three
gallon Royal Heritage plants at the Hellebore Hurrah!
and you will quickly understand the difference.
The Royal Heritage plants are good quality and
offer value for the money but the Heronswood plants
breeders' efforts, hellebores are complicated. They
are hybrids of numerous wild species so their genetics,
and hence their breeding, are difficult to understand.
Consequently, and magically, no two hellebores derived
from a seed strain are the same. When selecting from
a strain you should compare the plants and their
flowers to find the individual(s) that you most love!
They are all different and all have their own particular
charms. However, do remember that if you purchase
a plant that is not in flower it is impossible to
know exactly what you will get!
recently, diligent labs have finally discovered how
to micropropagate or tissue culture hellebores. The
resulting plants are all identical. The very best
plants from the best breeders are now being selected
for larger scale production. This means that special
plants that never would have left the breeders' or
their close friends' private gardens are now becoming
available to the general public. Even if these cultivars
are not in flower you will know exactly what the
blooms will look like when your plant reaches maturity.
Tissue cultured cultivars take away a bit of the
magic of finding your very own gem but they will
all be outstanding plants.
differentiate between hellebores derived from these
two different methods of propagation we use the
correct botanical formatting when possible to differentiate
between these two groups of hellebores. In the case
of the seed strains we have also added the word "strain"
to each plant. For instance,
the seed strains are written as Helleborus Mrs. Betty
Ranicar Strain. Cultivars produced through tissue
cultivar will have their names surrounded by single
quotes as in Helleborus 'Kingston Cardinal'.
Singles, Doubles and Anemone Centres
superficially the single hellebore flower
looks like a normal flower, it's actually a bit
different. What we think of as the five hellebore
petals -- the colourful white, pink, red, purple,
near-black or yellow structures that get us most
excited about these plants -- are actually the
sepals, which on most other plants are green and
protect the petals. The petals of hellebores are
actually very small green, yellow, burgundy or
black structures that form a ring around the
stamens. In this case they are called nectaries
and are important for attracting pollinating insects.
Note the ring of green nectaries in the image on
is fortuitous for us as gardeners that
the colourful part of the hellebore flower is the
sepal. If you think about flowers in general, the
petals usually have a short lifespan while the
sepals can last for months and sometimes are even
present on the fruits, as with roses and rose hips.
The long-lived sepals of hellebores are what gives
us the months of colour that we so appreciate.
hellebore flowers occur when the nectaries become
and take on the same colour as the sepals (unlike
in most other double flowers where the stamens
and pistils become petaloid and the plant is infertile).
The form of the double hellebore flower usually
consists of the five sepals which cup a number
of smaller, usually pointed and more numerous petals.
Anemone centred flowers occur when the nectaries
become partially petaloid, take on the colour of
the sepals and surround the stamens like a ruffly
ring of baby petals as in the picture at right.
petalled plants are the most common since this is
the natural form of the hellebore flower. Doubles
seem to be the second most common and anemone-centred
flowers the most rare. Perhaps this is due to the
greater interest in double flowers, though crosses
of anemone-centred plants tend to produce a lower
percentage of anemone-centred offspring than similar
crosses with double flowered plants that produce
double flowered offspring. Let's just say that to
have a double flowered hellebore is rare and special.
To have an anemone centred plant is even more uncommon.
Look for them at the Hellebore Hurrah! There are
some mixed in here and there.
Appropriate and fair pricing is very important
to us at Phoenix Perennials. Unfortunately, plant
lust doesn't always come cheap. We have attempted to
source the highest quality hellebores available
from some of the best breeders in the world.
These plants should exhibit great vigour, larger
flowers, and bold colours. However, owing to
their lofty parentage, high and labour intensive
standards of breeding, and the necessity of importing
these hellebores from far away places, and the
length of time -- often a number of years --
to bring hellebores into bloom, their prices
are higher than the average.
an example of pricing, while a regular (single) hellebore
is usually priced around $15, the Heronswood single
hellebores will be priced in the mid thirties.
Doubles are extremely rare and always expensive.
The Heronswood doubles will be priced in the mid
to high forties for a one gallon pot. We trust that
when you see them at the nursery and grow them in
your gardens you'll understand the difference between
regular hellebores and these superb horticultural
treasures. That being said, there are still treasures
to be found even in the more modestly priced strains.
Keep your eyes open and, like a busy bee, visit every
What Do You Want to Learn?
month we asked for your suggestions of what you wanted
to learn from our Phoenix Perennials workshops in
2008. We randomly selected a name from all of our
Attendance for You and a Friend in Any Workshop of
Your Choice in 2008 is
you everyone for participating and giving us your
Watch for our line up of workshops
in an upcoming e-newsletter!
Speaking at the
BC Home and Garden Show
the Summer Doldrums
Great Plants for High Summer and Early
Phoenix Perennials owner Gary Lewis
your garden look a little tired through the summer
months? Here's a whole raft of plants to get your
summer garden sizzling with colour. Gary Lewis will
present a stunning, image-rich Power Point presentation
to illustrate the many options for the high summer
Wednesday, February 20th, 7:30 pm
Friday, February 22nd, 4:30 pm
Place Stadium, Vancouver
this E-Newsletter with a Friend
Word of mouth has been such an important part of our success and growth at Phoenix Perennials. Thank you to everyone who has told their friends about us and thank you in advance for continuing to introduce new people to our nursery! We couldn't do it without your kind patronage and support!
you have any other questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd.
One of the largest and most exciting selections of perennials
in the Lower Mainland.
Specializing in distinct perennials, fragrant shrubs,
hardy subtropicals and the botanically intriguing.3380
No. 6 Road, Richmond (Between Bridgeport and Cambie)
visit our web page for information on the nursery, driving
directions and a map.
We are near the south end of the Knight Street Bridge
and very easy to get to from all of the surrounding
municipalities and beyond.
Days a Week 10am-5pm
February 22nd, 2008 through October 31st, 2008
Copyright Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd.
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