WHAT colour hellebores, did you say?

‘Did you say yellow hellebores?’ I hear you cry..(actually there was no such cry, but come on, I’m tryin to get some back and forth going here)

Yep, I said yellow, in that last post on hellebores.  And they’re here, finally. Twenty years ago we’d only heard of them in English garden books, and had snatched glances of mostly pretty dodgy pics that left you wondering if ‘yellow’ meant ‘sorta-washed-out-green-through-a-severe-squint’.

But it’s now not only yellow that we have.  There’s a range of previously undreamed-of colours and forms, largely as a consequence of the very focussed seed-importing and breeding by Peter Leigh of Post Office Farm Nursery.

Check out this double yellow.

That’s no washed out colour.  It’s bordering on buttercup.  This yellow pigment has then allowed for the development of fabulous peachy forms like that on the left.  Other breeding has concentrated on carefully zoning colour.  That has led to spotted forms in which spots form great splotches of red (such as below)

Or the opposite arrangement, in which the back of the petals show such clear zoning that it appears that the colour only develops where petals have overlapped, or as if the sun has faded the non-overlapped parts to white, as below.

In still other cases, it appears that the colour zoning has been pushed all the way to the edges, leaving only the finest pencilling, such as on the picotees (right).  There’s also, of course, the irresistible blacks.  They don’t show up greatly in the garden, but are fabulous oddities/novelties in pots.

All of these are variations on Helleborus x hybridus, what we used to know as H. orientalis.  All were taken on the 12th of August last year, just to give you an idea of when they’re in flower.

But there’s other magic stuff going on by forcing a cross between species that don’t cross in nature.  This means hand pollinating for virtually every seed obtained.  The resultant plants are very vigorous in that they start blooming very young – often at about 18 months, which is around half the time it takes to flower hybrids like those pictured.  My last post showed pics of H. x ballardiae (which is the name used for any cross between H. niger and H. lividus), with those white-fading-to-pink flowers.  The very similar H ‘Ivory Prince’, now very widely available thanks to micropropagation and distribution by PGA, is an H x ericsmithii type (the name used for any cross between H. niger and H. x sternii), and is much later blooming than those H. x ballardiae types in my other post.  The image below was taken of the most developed bud on Ivory Prince on the same day as the H x ballardiae forms in full bloom shown on my post of 23rd July.  

These hybrids between species have opened up the entire playing field, allowing for new combinations of colour and beautifully marbled foliage.  I can’t wait to get my hands on H. ‘Penny’s Pink’ (released just now by PGA), and, eventually, the can’t-believe-your-eyes H. ‘Anna’s Red’.

Note that Post Office Farm Nursery, despite being a mail-order/wholesale nursery, is open on Sunday afternoons during the hellebore flowering season.  It’s SO worth a visit. Check details (and further pics) on the website linked in the text above.


  1. Unbelievable primrose colour just love it. Great new hybrids. My favorite is a double white (ivory really) called Mrs Betty Ranicar that I was given by Ingrid Nemetz of Hellebores Down Under at Bilpin NSW. Its a darling. I have had no luck with Ivory Prince in Sydney. Think our climate is too humid for it.

    1. Yeah, Mrs Betty Ranicar is a sensation, and all the more incredible given that it arose as a chance seedling in Tassie, as far as I know. No other hellebore ‘reads’ with so much floral power. A sweep of them provides an amazing amount of white, visible from a distance (which one can’t say about the more fetching, subtle hues).
      As for Sydney and Ivory Prince, I’m guessing that neither H. niger or H. lividus (both contributing to the parentage) would like the humidity, so while the failure is disappointing, its not surprising. Let’s hope the breeders get onto that problem.

  2. Interested in Sandra’s comment about Ivory Prince and humidity. It does brilliantly in Bathurst where humidity is pretty well non-existent, in my fairly ordinary (granite) soil. Not open yet but covered in buds. Might it also be that Sydney isn’t cool enough for long enough?
    Can’t wait for those primrose yellows though Michael! Exciting!

    1. The yellows, as pictured, have now been available from Post Office Farm for a few years. Unlike the PGA forms that are tissue cultured, these are grown from highly consistent seed strains, and are available as seedlings via mail order, or plants in bloom from the nursery. Check out the mouth watering catalogue on line.

  3. If I was in any way disciplined in my garden I would remove all the naturalised hellebores and plant only the glowing yellow forms i purchased from Peter this year . With a touch of magic thousands of Galanthus, preferably Sam Arnott or Magnet would flower, sparkling between the yellow. I can see perfection with such conviction!

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