Christmas Hellebores

 In Hardy perennials, Plant Focus, Seasonal Gardening, Winter colour

Christmas hellebores often fail to bloom at Christmas.

But careful breeding has brought us gardeners a greatly improved hellebore.

And one that always flowers before, at and after Christmas!

 

Christmas hellebores, Helleborus niger, Christmas rose

Helleborus niger in front of Pittosporum Tom Thumb

This image shows a superior strain of Christmas rose that I produced when I used to grow them for a living in my nursery. It’s unusual to see so many blooms out at once!

 

 

 

Who has bred new Christmas Hellebores?

New hybrids of Christmas hellebores are mostly from a German breeder called Heuger Gartenbaubetriebe.

Their new varieties are not only early reliable bloomers but also have larger and more blooms.

In fact the focus of this breeding programme was to develop a pot plant that would cheer up European doorsteps and balconies but actually produced very good garden plants!

Many of these new varieties have attractive evergreen leaves.

These leaves set off the large flowers well.

Helleborus argutifolius, green flower

Helleborus argutifolius

Heuger has crossed Helleborus niger, the true Christmas rose, with evergreen Helleborus species such as argutifolius or lividus corsicus.

Many British growers now grow varieties of Heuger’s Christmas hellebores and they can be identified as part of Heuger’s Gold Collection.

You should have little difficulty in sourcing some in the lead up to Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Stateside Growers

My first real encounter with Heuger’s Gold Collection was in the beautiful Pacific North West of USA.

I saw many being grown in a nursery close to the Canadian border.

This is a trade only nursery called Skagit. Plants that they grow are shipped all over USA.

Because Gold Collection hellebores are laboratory propagated each one is identical to the next.

Helleborus Cinnamon Snow, Gold Collection

Helleborus Cinnamon Snow Gold Collection

This is not the case with most Hellebores as they are seed raised.

You see, hellebores are promiscuous and hybridize readily if left to their own devises! When they do their own thing you can never really be sure of the outcome!

The resultant plant might be better than the mother plant, just the same or it could be worse.

Plants raised by tissue culture can be flown around the world and so those plants in the US probably started life in Heuger’s German tissue lab.

As is often the case with plant breeders, they get carried away and name and introduce far too many similar looking plants but some have really distinct looks.

 

Pink hellebore, Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, Gold Collection

Hellebore Gold Collection Pink Frost

Take ‘Pink Frost’ for instance; it really is a lovely shade of pink.

 

 

‘Winter Moonbeam’ has white blooms that fade to pink and ‘Winter Frost’ has many large white blooms per plant that fade to red!

 

These and others will not be too hard to find and may even be outside the door of your local florist since they do look great on a doorstep!

 

 

 

Double Christmas hellebores

double flowered Christmas hellebores

Double flowered Helleborus niger

I’ve been trying to grow a double flowered form of Helleborus niger for many years.

I’ve only had limited success and my plants gradually get weaker and then die.

As you can see from this image it is not entirely a full double but it does have several extra layers of petals.

I’ll continue to try growing them!

 

 

 

 

 

True pink Christmas hellebores

Helleborus niger pink in woodland

A pink Helleborus niger in woods

Many hybrid hellebores are pink or pink tinged.

But there is a true pink Helleborus niger!

My wife Felicity Down and I hiked in the Wilder Kaiser Mountains close to the border with Germany a few years ago.

We took a day off from skiing the Austrian Alps.

Imagine our delight when we found tens of hectares of beech woodland carpeted with Helleborus niger!

I stumbled upon just a handful of truly pink Christmas roses and it appears that they were spreading.

This little colony could only have been spreading by seed and the seed was producing truly pink new plants!

Although I was tempted to dig a plant up I resisted that temptation. These plants were growing in a National Nature Reserve and so were definitely off limits!

 

I think that the new Christmas rose hybrids are a real improvement on the traditional Christmas rose [Helleborus niger] but I wouldn’t be without the true Christmas rose!

What do you think?

 

Related Reading

Read more about other exceptional hellebores here.

Read more about Heavenly Hellebores here.

I also discovered winter flowering lime tolerant heathers growing high up in the Wilder Kaiser Mountains. I’ve written about these and winter heathers in gardens here.

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Christmas rose, Christmas hellebore

Helleborus Christmas Carol G C

Helleborus Merlin, Christmas rose

Helleborus Merlin G C.

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