Ships Third Week of September 2020
In 2009, I was walking through a garden in Washington, D.C. area. This was no average garden. It was spectacular, and that was in March. The garden was covered with some of the most beautiful Helleborus I had ever seen. Even the Hellebore with nodding heads were given attention with small square mirrors placed below the flowers so you could see the face of the spectacular blooms.
At that time, the gardens here at Natchez Glen were brand new and there was no shade or even light shade to find a place for Hellebores. Fast forward 10 years later. The trees grew and finally I had the shade that Hellebores need, in particular in the south U.S. So, of course, I added nearly 100 to the gardens where they would do best. That was one of the best gardening decisions I've ever made.
No plant blooms longer or more spectacularly than Hellebores in my opinion. Here they bloom as early as December and can keep blooming till as late as May. Having a plant with that long of a season makes them as important as any plant in the garden. Even though roses and peonies might be more known or romanticized, the Hellebore is every bit their equal and in many ways better.
In the early days of Hellebore introductions, most if not all the breeding was from Helleborus orientalis. The flowers would face downwards, and often the stems would be weaker. The flowers were lovely but would still be called a more subtle woodland-type flower. In the last twenty years, the breeding of Hellebores has evolved and in turn, so has the plant. Now those strictly downward facing flowers are more upright and to the side. The stems have improved in strength. The flowers are now truly breathtaking while still blooming at a time of year that feels magical.
Walking out in a frosty morning in March and seeing the Hellebores with their flowers slightly bent covered in dancing crystals of frost is a special moment. Coming back later in the day to see the frost has melted and the flower has risen back upward as if nothing had happened at all is incredible.
When putting this collection together, it was difficult because there are so many outstanding Hellebores to choose for the garden. As I always share, I value the relationships I have with growers across the world, and that's what I leaned on to create this Hellebore garden. The team at Walters Gardens, with their lead breeder Hans Hansen, has done an incredible job with their two series called the Wedding and Honeymoon series of Hellebores. I also checked a few facts with their production trial manager Laura Robles before picking which Hellebores to add. This curated garden is one of my favorites because it will get better with age as young Hellebores will bloom lightly but by year three will be an explosion of flowers.
Helleborus 'Blushing Bridesmaid' - Certain flowers have style that is undeniable, and 'Blushing Bride' is one of those truly stylish flowers. With a rich raspberry tone on the margin and back of the petals, technically sepals, it is one of the most vigorous and heavy flowered after the third year in the garden of any Hellebore.
Helleborus 'Wedding Bells' - True white is hard to find in a Hellebore. It's even harder to find in a beautiful double-petaled variety. 'Wedding Bells' excels at both of those traits. When I look at 'Wedding Bells," I think back to those early species Helleborus orientalis plants. Again, the flowers were elegant but in a more simple way. 'Wedding Bells' holds that same elegance of its parent but with even more drama. As gardens age, you need the kind of substance that 'Wedding Bells' provides.
Helleborus 'True Love' - One of the largest flowers in the world of Hellebores at 3-3 1/2" flowers as the plant matures. 'True Love' feels like the Hellebore that even the least interested person on the planet in gardening would get their attention. This flower in winter blooming in a light snow cover will be a moment you will remember for decades. Also, a very solid grower for a dark-toned Hellebore flowering plant which is rare.
Helleborus x nigercors 'Snow Love' - One of the first Hellebores to bloom. Imagine seeing on Christmas day walking into the garden and seeing this plant in full bloom, and then having 'Snow Love' bloom all the way till April. I've been so excited by the breeding, taking advantage of the early bloom time of the Helleborus niger species. 'Snow Love' was introduced by the Belgian breeder Het Wilgenbroek and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit. A flowering plant for four months is an incredible accomplishment.
Helleborus 'Sandy Shores' - Apricot and peachy tones are something that we normally see in the later half of spring. 'Sandy Shores' bring those vivid colors to the garden as early as March. If there is an underrated cultivar of Hellebores, I feel it's 'Sandy Shores'. It is a perfect compliment to the double-petaled varieties, and it's magical with early season daffodils. As the flowers ages, it takes a creamy peach tone.