There are few individual plants for which I’d be happy to be part of a greeting party – for which I’d consider it a privilege to line up for the chance to shake their hand as they entered the world of commercial horticulture.
Please factor into this gush the possible discernment-impeding issues of 1. Having waited a couple of years for this arrival and 2. The sheer novelty of an interspecific hybrid hellebore (a hybrid between two species, which in this case wouldn’t happen without hand pollination) that is not white (as nearly all others are) but is an even, matte, rich burgundy. Both the anticipation and the novelty factors can, on their own, tip a plant nut like me out of balance. Combine those factors and I’m incapable of resistance, and possibly incapable of fair assessment. Just bear that in mind.
Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’ was bred, along with H. ‘Penny’s Pink’ by an extraordinarily dedicated, single-focussed, stay-at-home breeder in the UK named Rodney Davey, who wanted to combine the strong, marbled foliage of the interspecific hybrids (like H. x ballardiae and H x ericsmithii) with rich coloured flowers. It took years of trial and error, but he succeeded. And we, thanks to the micro-propagation that allows the rapid bulking up of numbers, are the beneficiaries.
The fact that a plant is chosen for micro-propagation so that it is replicated in the thousands is not proof of its superiority to its peers. But in this case, it looks like a faultless pedigree, and an exceptional plant. I laid my eyes on an actual, real, flowering plant for the first time yesterday. It’s due for release into nurseries in a few weeks time.