March 2011 Plant Profile: The Genus Helleborus

March 9th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The popularity of this tough and resilient perennial has made it one of the most revered and sought after of all winter blooming plants in our climate. The range of varieties and different color forms now available is quite remarkable and being able to select just one for your garden is near impossible.

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Black Diamond

By far the most popular and well known are the diverse hybrids of Helleborus x hybridus (often incorrectly dubbed as Helleborus orientalis) or the Lenten Rose. These represent the wide range of colors and forms that currently exist and some of the finest examples come from a breeder who generously donated some of their previous breeding stock to UW Botanic Gardens, which are all now in full bloom at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Ernie and Marietta O’byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery developed the fabulous Winter Jewels Series. Thousands of crosses comprised of hybrids bred from at least 16 different species make up several color strains to showcase much improved flower forms, exquisite colors and unusual markings.

Here’s just an example of their work and what’s currently blooming now:

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Jade Star flower reverse

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Onyx Odyssey reverse

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ Painted

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Golden Lotus

When it comes to early bloom, prolific flowers and sturdy, disease-free foliage, the new hybrids coming out of Europe are tough to beat. The “Gold Collection”, again a complex series of hybrids are actually identical clones propagated vegetatively (via tissue culture) to ensure uniformity. In varying shades of pure white, cream, to deep saturated pinks, these have proven to be vigorous and excellent garden or container perennials. ‘Joseph Lemper’ our January 2010 Plant Profile) along with ‘Jacob’ are two selections of Helleborus niger that are a part of this Gold Collection. Then you have the exquisite quality of varieties such as ‘Ivory Prince’ and ‘Pink Frost’ that are flying off the nursery tables at nurseries in mid-winter.

Helleborus 'Josef Lemper'

A brand new hybrid that was new for us last year is getting established and looking quite lovely is Helleborus x ‘Rosemary’. An unusual cross between H x hybridus and H. niger bringout the fine qualities of both plants.

Then you have the sturdiness and dependability of species such as Helleborus argutifolius, the Corsican Hellebore, which opens later in the spring with pale green flowers. A selection called ‘Silver Lace’ is lovely with finer dissected foliage and a more compact habit. Helleborus foetidus you can find growing in the Fragrance Garden despite its unpleasant smell if admired up close, The foliage is exquisitely elegant, narrow and finely dissected.

Hellebores will be the highlight of an early spring plant sale taking place here at CUH being run by the Northwest Horticultural Society. Proceeds from the sales go to support the Miller Horticultural Library and there will be plant vendors from all around the Puget Sound region selling plants and, yes, they’ve been asked to also bring their blooming hellebores to entice you! There will be demonstrations, displays, and even a talk by renowned plantsman, Dan Hinkley.

For more information, please visit our page dedicated to this event!

This is the perfect month to see these wonderful jewels in person as the weather begins to warm, the earliest of bulbs begin to pop and the color heralding the arrival of spring.

Common Name: Lenten Rose, Christmas Rose
Family: Ranunculaceae
Location: Throughout CUH
Origin: Original species come from Eastern regions of Europe. Mostly hybrids.
Height: 10″-18″ tall
Spread: mature clumps can get 2.5ft. wide
Bloom Time: Mid-Winter-Early Spring
Bloom Type/Color: Flowers composed of persistent sepals often marked or fully double with central nectaries. Flowers are out to downfacing opening sequentially.
Water/Soil: Moist to moderately dry. Drought tolerant once established.

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CUH Update – January 2011: A frosty start to a new year

January 11th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The start of the new year brings with it a bit of sad news as one of our gardeners here at CUH has decided to take another position that’s full time, leaving just two half-time gardeners to oversee the grounds here. With our staff so limited as it is to oversee all aspects of the work we do and a budget that’s going to see more cuts, getting a new gardener sometime soon is highly unlikely. So, we certainly have challenges ahead of us, but we move forward.

January has traditionally been the coldest month of they year, but with our cold snap of November and drab December, I’m just praying that we don’t endure anymore severe fluctuations in temperature and prolonged subfreezing temperatures. So many plants have been hit and we’re all just waiting for signs of spring to distract us from our worries. Luckily, daffodils are showing signs of life as are the lovely Hellebores we are most excited about watching bloom in the next couple of weeks! You might remember ‘Josef Lemper’ from last year along with ‘Jacob’, ‘Pink Frost’ and the highly anticipated ‘Walburton’s Rosemary’. Then come the x hybridus selections that will be standouts in the Soest Garden for sure!!

We’ve also been trying to plant, if soil allows us so, and our focus has been getting our vine collection out of the nursery and into the grounds of CUH. Several grape species (Vitis) have been installed to clamber around the Southwest side of Merrill Hall and a few Clematis species climbing or carpeting the slopes of the Stormwater Garden. They’ve been mulched well in the hopes they survive the transplant well and establish as quickly as possible.

The McVay Courtyard will undergo a bit of a facelift to help spruce up the site with the addition of a new maple tree, flowering perennials and bulbs and the relocation of a large specimen of Edgeworthia chrysantha that will need to carefully be dug and transplanted to two possible locations. You might recall this plant suffering from the cold last month, so we will try and find a more sheltered location for it.

Now with more snow in the forecast, we have to pace ourselves and pray we get everything we want to get done, accomplished. It’s mother nature; you always have to try and work with it, never against it!

I’m sure it’ll be forgiving, it always seems to be.

Think spring….and tell it to hurry!!

Riz

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January 2009 Plant Profile: Helleborus niger ‘Josef Lemper’

January 1st, 2009 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Probably one of the most popular plants to grace each winter display at every retail nursery at this time of year has to be Helleborus niger ‘Josef Lemper’. This plant was a donation to us from Skagit Gardens and T & L Nusery, who

both seemed to highly recommend it last season hence the double donation, and now here it is at its peak. The first blossoms opened well before Christmas and now in January, it continues to form buds and show off its pristine pure white flowers and bright yellow stamens. To set them off, the foliage is evergreen and highly attractive on this hardy and vigorous plant. When it’s not putting on this tremendous winter show, it simply hangs out amongst other perennials that seem to grow over it throughout the spring and summer, but as their companions lose their tops of the winter, “Josef” perks up and is right on queue! A definite “must have” for the winter garden or container!

Common Name: Christmas Rose
Location: Soest Garden – Bed 2
Family: Ranunculaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 8-11″
Spread: 12-15″
Bloom Time: Winter
Bloom Type/Color: Pure white with bright yellow stamens, fades to pink/green
Exposure: Part Shade
Water/Soil: Well drained with moderate moisture.

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