I can’t stop looking at these hellebores I’ve been given. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what they reminded me of – where I’d seen that colour combination elsewhere in nature. I kept thinking ‘peach’ but couldn’t get why. Then it struck me – they’re an exact repeat of that astonishing colour phenomenon that occurs with the rich, ruby staining on the flesh of a white peach nearest to the stone.
Eventually on this hellebore (Helleborus ‘Winter Moonbeam’) the ruby totally invades the white, and it’s not quite like any other floral colour. It’s more like a ripening that a normal flower pigment.
Likewise on Penny’s Pink, though in this case the dark pink flowers are gradually invaded by the same beetroot colouring as occurs in the white forms, and the result, while dark and subtle, is complex and captivating.
Come to think of it, there are other flowers that ‘ripen’ in a similar way. Some of the dogwoods, particularly Cornus kousa var. chinensis, can do it where it doesn’t get too weather-beaten, and is usually notably pinkish before it finally falls. Close-up, it’s more like there’s red staining on the greeny-white bracts, often like broken blood vessels on the rosy cheeks of my dear old Aunty Mabel.
Unfortunately I don’t have an image to show this effect, but you can view one here. The best I can do is of this dogwood before the flowers start to age, taken at the Mien Ruys garden that I wrote of in an earlier post.
Hydrangeas also do this slow development of colour that is quite different from the original pigment. Flower heads that make it through to the autumn in reasonable nic can wind up with the most incredibly complex mix of green, burnt reds and deep aubergine. The best colouring occurs where they grow in full sun.
And it’s just occurred to me as I’ve been thinking about this similarity, that each of these ‘petals’ isn’t a petal at all, but bracts or sepals instead. That must have something to do with their amazing longevity, and this captivating evolution of colour.
The hellebores discussed were supplied by PGA, and included Winter Moonbeam, Winter Sunshine, Ruby Glow and Penny’s Pink, for the purposes of trialing them in my cool climate.