I love everything about hellebores: their early blooming season, the variety of colour and flower forms, as well as their handsome foliage.
We often stock upwards of fifty different cultivars of Helleborus here at Amsterdam Garden Centre, but because I have a townhouse-sized growing space, I have but three growing in my own garden. One is an unnamed variety of Lenten Rose (Helleborus x orientalis) with stunning double blooms of greenish-white. It was a gift to me from one of my growers and because I had no room for it at the time in my own landscape, I regifted it to a fellow gardener with an ample yard in Whonnock. Some years later, she offered me a division of this same plant and it now sits just a few feet away from a honeysuckle and climbing rose-covered rustic arbor in my backyard…completing the circle of giving.
The other two hellebores weren’t of my choosing, although when my wife brought home a pair of rather large ‘Anna’s Red’ I could hardly argue with her, because although I had no say in the matter, they were still one of my favourite varieties…but please don’t tell her that. These come from a rather complex lineage of hellebores known as the Rodney Davey Marbled Group which have been with us (and added to) for the last ten years, with ‘Anna’s Red’ being the first of his introductions.
Mr. Davey worked out of RD Plants in Devon England, which he co-owned with Lynda Windsor. He focused on breeding new complex inter-species hellebore hybrids with marbled foliage that is considered just as attractive as the blooms. His first hybrid, ‘Anna’s Red’, was named after the garden writer Anna Pavord and took him about 12 years to create. Of course, when you only keep one or two of thousands of seedlings, you are definitely focussed on producing only the very best, and ‘Anna’s Red’ did not disappoint. The very large burgundy-red single flowers are nicely contrasted by creamy-yellow stamens and are not prone to nodding out of view. They are held on reddish stems and beautifully contrasted by glossy deep green-marbled foliage that flushes with a hint of pink. Both the vigor and longevity have been proven over the last decade and since they need to be cloned (because it is sterile), the plants are very consistent, unlike many of the hellebore strains we have seen over the years.
Other varieties, such as ‘Penny’s Pink’ have exceptional foliage with rich cerise marbling on the newly emerging leaves and yet all of these exciting hybrids have a little something different to offer. So here are some brief descriptions to introduce you to the Rodney Davey marbled hellebores, followed by a quick peek at some newer introductions being sold under the Frostkiss series that you should be able to buy shortly.
Helleborus ‘Cheryl’s Shine’
(📸: Pacific Plug & Liner)
Light pink blooms (often with slightly darker edges) are borne on mahogany-coloured scapes. Mature foliage is deep green with creamy-white highlights.
Helleborus ‘Dana’s Dulcet’
(📸: Pacific Plug & Liner)
The outward-facing violet-purple flowers have subtle green highlights in the center of the face. Generally begins blooming in February and also attracts those early pollinators.
Helleborus ‘Dorothy’s Dawn’
The abundant lavender-pink blossoms are nicely contrasted by the creamy-yellow stamens and apple-green nectaries. These are borne on mottled bronze stems and nicely contrasted by the two-tone silvery-green foliage.
Helleborus ‘Glenda’s Gloss’
A real standout in the Rodney Davey hellebores with its pure white flowers sharply contrasted by a distinct violet picotee. The heavy white marbling on the newly emerging leaves is also quite eye-catching.
Helleborus ‘Molly’s White’
(📸: Pacific Plug & Liner)
The perfect addition to any Alba Garden with its large white blossoms accented with haunting verdant highlights. These are perfectly balanced by the deep green foliage with contrasting lime veining.
Helleborus ‘Penny’s Pink’
The second of Rodney Davey’s introductions did not disappoint as the large clear pink flowers are abundant and spectacularly nestled in newly emerging fishnet foliage of cream, rose-pink, and white.
Helleborus ‘Pippa’s Purple’
The speckled smoky-purple blooms really stand out and open from reddish-purple buds. The white-mottled new growth also exhibits pink highlights and is deer resistant.
Helleborus ‘Reanna’s Ruby’
Abundant reddish-purple blooms are borne on dark maroon stems. The new foliage growth emerges with red and silver veining that matures to mint green.
Helleborus ‘Sally’s Shell’
The mid-pink blossoms appear two-toned with their darker edges and are nicely complimented by the multicoloured foliage. This cultivar flowers at the same time as ‘Anna’s Red’ and ‘Penny’s Pink’.
Add to that some upcoming new introductions such as ‘Moondance’ (ivory white flowers), ‘Illumi Lime’ (apple green blooms) or ‘Bayli’s Blush’ (white with a lavender-pink blush), and we all have some hellebores to look forward to in 2023.
(📸: [L] Pacific Plug & Liner, [C] Pacific Plug & Liner, [R] Pacific Plug & Liner)