… and an extensive roster of hellebore breeders, including Ernie and Marietta O'Byrne, Joseph Heuger, Glenn Withey and Charles Price, and many others, I now have something truly distinctive to admire when hardly anything else is growing in the slowly thawing Buffalo spring. Not to mention that even the most exotic hellebores don’t seem to mind my maple-root-choked soil.
I first saw these on the back of the Wayside catalog about ten years back; I think they were offering the hybridus ‘Party Dress” strain, a Heronswood introduction, but I could be wrong, and no longer have the catalog. I do have several old Heronswood catalogs with dizzying arrays of not just hybridus but also foetidus, niger, and multifidus strains. Ten years ago I bought the plants featured on the back of the Wayside catalog and they have matured into large clumps, one with white single flowers, the other with pinkish greenish single flowers. (I think one gets more shade than the other.)
These days I rely on Plant Delights for interesting hellebores via mail order, but increasingly I am seeing beautiful doubles and singles offered at area nurseries. The double purple/maroon varieties here are from Plant Delights. One of them is ‘Kingston Cardinal,’ a Hinkley introduction. Neither of these appears in the PDN offerings now.
I made the mistake of picking up and paging through a couple old Heronswood books just now. Never again. Not only did I see all the hellebores I never ordered, there were also 4 types of podophyllum and 6 types of hepatica. What was I thinking?! What a woodland garden I’d have if I had stocked up on all these when I could.
Oh well. The hellebores make up for it. Unlike other fleeting spring beauties, the flowers last well into June, and after that you have magnificent clumps of foliage. These plants are an amazing boon for the cold climate gardener. I couldn’t care less about orange, yellow, and lime green echinacea; just give me more hellebore strains, and I’ll plant them, as long as I have room.