Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hello Hellebore... Goodbye?

Helleborus foetidus is new to our garden this year, and it's a very handsome plant, indeed... however, I wonder what it will look like next spring. I see hardiness zone ratings all over the place for it, all the way from z4 to z6 (one nurseryman claims it's hardy in all fifty states); I bought it, of course, choosing to believe the z4 folks (a wildly optimistic bunch). Our little z5a valley is somewhat sheltered, so I can sometimes grow things that are a little tender, but I did not know that H. foetidus puts out its flower buds in the fall, and expects to remain evergreen all winter, then bloom in very early spring... this doesn't look good. Burrell and Tyler in their terrific book Hellebores- A Comprehensive Guide (which I should have looked at, instead of relying on the catalog folks, before investing fourteen dollars in this plant), state: Helleborus foetidus is reported hardy to zone 5 and sometimes z4. Most American gardeners north of zone 6 enjoy little success however.
Well, it's been nice knowing you...
H. foetidus is native to western Europe, and blooms (for those lucky z6 folks) in earliest spring with small greenish flowers; apparently it's grown more for its foliage than its flowers, and there are some wonderful-looking selected forms, like Wester Flisk, which has dark, reddish-tinged foliage. Some of these plants look very exotic and otherworldly. Should my plant buck the odds and survive, I have a couple of spots in the garden that would love to have one of these oddities.
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Make sure you give an update next Spring. :-)
You just never know, do you, until you try? Our hellebores seem to be pretty tough, but we don't have foetidus either! Do keep us posted though....
We had foeditus over winter once in Western WI but then lost it. I'm sure you got this from Cole's book, but the trick with them is the new growth comes from the above ground stems, unlike the orientalis group that grow from the roots. It means mulching those stems is very in important. I seem to remember that green flowered viridus and corsicus both regrow from roots. Therefore they are a bit hardier, even though they come from southern Europe.
Shady & IVG... I definitely will update next spring..

tedb... that REALLY doesn't sound good. At the best it will survive, but I'll never see any flowers.

Don- My single foeditus from 7 years ago has turned into about 15, of all sizes. They do not seem to last more than 3 years but they do spread and the smaller ones make it through the winter just fine. They are really impressive in late December.
Philip... well, I'm very encouraged by your success. I knew they are are short-lived, but good reseeders. the fact you're getting seedlings means that they survive well enough to flower. What do the plants look like after winter?

Why are the H.foetidus so expensive?

I pull them out by the dozen, as they seed all over the place.
Makes me feel guilty now.
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