Hello Landscapers and Designers,

Spring has sprung. Here's to a prosperous 2014 for all of us in the horticulture and landscaping industry!

As many of you know it's hellebore season. And if you're familiar with Phoenix then you know we go all out for hellebores. Hellebores are the perfect perennial not only for winter and spring colour but year round due to their attractive evergreen foliage. If you think your clients could use a late winter and early spring pick-me-up in their gardens then hellebores are the go-to plant for spring inspiration.

Currently we have an amazing selection of about 100 different species, cultivars and strains. Over the past few years there have been numerous new introductions to the hellebore pallet making this genus even more versatile in the landscape and in design including in containers. Below I've put together an article to summarize the differences between the major groups of hellebores and how they can be successfully used in the landscape.

If you want to see the hellebores in the flesh, now would be a great time to come down!

Cheers, Gary and the Phoenicians


Hellebores for the Landscape: A perfect perennial for every season

Hellebores are must-have perennials for west coast gardens. No other group of perennials can create such interest in the garden from November through April like a hellebore can. And their foliage looks good when they're not in flower. So useful are they for creating multi-season gardens and so inspirational are they for homeowners that I would go so far as to say that if you haven't integrated hellebores into your designs then your gardens are not yet complete.

We think of hellebores as shade plants and while some are definitely suited to shadier situations none do as well in full shade as they do in more light. What many people don't realize, including many landscapers and designers, is that many species and cultivars actually prefer full to part sun. Here's a summary of the different groups of hellebores and how to use them in the landscape.

Helleborus niger -- The Christmas Rose

'HGC Josef Lemper'
'HGC Jonas'

Description: The Christmas rose has pure white flowers embossed with golden stamens at the centre of each flower. The flower stems are upright and the flowers outward facing. The leaves are thick and leathery and mid to dark green forming a mound below the flowers.

Until recently I would have said that H. niger was not a great choice for our climate, especially for landscape uses. The species and its older forms did not show much vigour and would become splattered with soil in winter as the plants attempted to put out a few flowers.

Then along came the Helleborus Gold Collection (HGC) cultivars. 'Jacob', 'Jonas', 'Josef Lemper' and 'Joshua' have changed everything. They are like a Christmas rose on steroids with lush mounds of foliage and copious amounts of flowers that bloom from November or December all winter into March or April. The flower power of these new cultivars is amazing. If you want your clients to be inspired by your work, few things amaze people more than flowers that bloom in the winter. 'Josef Lemper' is the largest-growing cultivar and best for the open garden. The other cultivars are good in the garden or containers.

Bloom Time: November/December-March/April

Flower Colour: White with yellow centres. Some double forms exist, the best of which is 'HGC Snow Frills'.

Flower Orientation: Outward facing.

Foliage: Mid to dark green, thick, leathery.

Exposure: Full but not blazing sun (with good moisture) or part sun to part shade. Avoid full shade.

Soil Moisture: Evenly moist, well-drained with good nutrition.

Landscape Uses: Garden beds, outdoor containers, indoor containers at Christmas for 2-3 weeks (makes a great gift to clients at Christmas time!).

Hardiness Zones: 4-9


Helleborus x hybridus -- The Lenten Rose

Winter Jewels Doubles
Winter Jewels Singles

Description: The Lenten rose has traditionally been the best-loved of the genus with elegant, nodding flowers in the widest colour range of the hellebores. This group is also the longest lived and can last for decades in the garden, even 50-60-70 years. Some lament the nodding orientation of the flowers in preference of the other groups but the Lenten roses also offer a certain magic that draws one into the garden to visit the plants and lift up the flowers. Recent breeding work has focused on more outward facing flowers with colourful petal reverses so even if nodding the flowers still provide lots of colour. These plants form large mounds of mid green evergreen foliage.

Most of the Lenten roses are seed grown. For collectors of hellebores this is where the magic lies since each seed-grown hellebore is unique and special forms can often be found. Many reliable colour strains have been developed though the exact colour cannot be known unless the plant is seen in bloom. The best strains are the Winter Jewels. The Lady Series, Mardi Gras Strains and the Winter Thrillers are other useful strains. The Spring Promise Series is tissue cultured so every plant will look exactly like its tag. This series offers a wide range of colours. If you need to know the exact colour of a hellebore outside of blooming season you can count on the Spring Promise series. 'Tutu' is also tissue cultured and has a unique anemone centre.

'Spring Promise Elly'
'Spring Promise Conny'

Bloom Time: February-April

Flower Colour: Red, purple-black, purple, slate purple, pink, yellow, apricot, white, green. Can have picotee edges, dark veining and central flares. Double and single forms are readily available. 'Tutu' has semi-double or anemone-centred flowers.

Flower Orientation: Nodding, though some strains and cultivars can have more outward-facing flowers.

Foliage: Mid green, thick.

Exposure: Part sun to part shade is best. Tolerant of full shade but will grow more slowly and not bloom as heavily.

Soil Moisture: Evenly moist, well-drained with good nutrition. Drought tolerant once established if planted in part shade.

Landscape Uses: Garden beds are best due to the large root system. Large containers are also possible if they have a diametre greater than 14 inches. Great as a groundcover if planted at appropriate distances of 1 to 1.5 feet apart on centre.

Hardiness Zones: 5-9


Helleborus Stemmed/Caulescent Hybrids -- The New Hybrid Group

'HGC Pink Frost'
'HGC Ice Breaker Prelude'

Description: This group is currently the most popular owing to numerous new introductions all of which offer mounds of lush leathery foliage and outward facing flowers. Many of the new introductions are from the Gold Collection but there are also important cultivars such as 'Penny's Pink', 'Anna's Red', 'Honeyhill Joy', 'Piroutte' and 'Angel Glow' from other breeders. This group is comprised of often complex hybrids of the stemmed species H. argutifolius, H. niger and H. lividus. The first major introduction within this group was 'Ivory Prince'.

The best plants for the landscape would be the tough HGC Ice Breaker series or 'Honeyhill Joy' all of which have mounds of extra thick and resilient foliage and cream, white or whitish green flowers. 'Pink Frost' is also a large grower and good for the landscape with big leaves and client-pleasing pink flowers.

With their mottled foliage 'Penny's Pink', 'Anna's Red' and 'Winter Moonbeam' would be the best cultivars for eye-catching plant combinations for containers whether they are in flower or not. However, there are many other members of the Gold Collection which would also be superlative in containers.

'Anna's Red'
'Penny's Pink'

Bloom Time: January or February through April, depending on the cultivar

Flower Colour: Green, cream, dusty rose, pink, red.

Flower Orientation: Outward-facing.

Foliage: Shades of dark green, bluish green, greyish green. Some cultivars like 'Winter Moonbeam' have mottled foliage that emerges with veins of icy white that slowly fade to mint green on a dark green background. 'Anna's Red' and 'Penny's Pink' offer red and pink flushed new leaves, respectively, that fade to dark green with mint green mottling.

Exposure: Full to part sun. Tolerant of part shade. Avoid full shade.

Soil Moisture: Evenly moist, well-drained with good nutrition.

Landscape Uses: Full to part sun situations in garden beds. These cultivars are also excellent in containers.

Hardiness Zones: 5-9, perhaps lower


Other Hellebores of Note for the Landscape

H. argutifolius, the Corsican hellebore, is a sun- to part sun- loving hellebore that grows like a shrub, often topping off at three feet in height by three feet wide. Strong leathery foliage and clusters of large green flowers on top fo the stems from February through April. Long-lived.
H. foetidus, the bearsfoot hellebore, is an intriguing textural addition to the garden with great dissected foliage and small green flowers. It should also be grown in sun to part sun. Red Silver Strain and Wester Flisk Strain have bluish leaves with red highlights. Not as long-lived as the Corsican hellebore or the Lenten roses.


To Learn More About Hellebores:

Come down to the nursery now to see our huge selection of over 100 different species, cultivars and strains.

Have a look at the articles in our 2014 Hellebore Catalogue.

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Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd.
One of the largest and most exciting selections of perennials in the Lower Mainland.
3380 No. 6 Road, Richmond (Between Bridgeport and Cambie)
Please 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.

Opening Dates and Hours
February 14th to November 2nd, 2014

The Phoenicians are on site every morning at 9am.
Landscapers are welcome to stop in from 9am onwards.

Copyright Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd.

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