Outside In: Hellebores

by amym

Spring has undeniably sprung. Daffodils are already waning, cherry is wilting but boom! It’s hellebore time in the city. The New York flower market is rioting with specimens, and we’re carting home armfuls quicker than they can stock the shelves. When bought locally or cut from the ubiquitous plant, their vase life is phenomenal. The imported stems? Well, not so hot. When stuffed in an old tin alongside a few fancy stems of clematis and lilac, a collection of hellebores are the ultimate spring treat. — Amy Merrick

The full post continues after the jump . . .

Hellebores run the color gamut, from white and chartreuse to olive, eggplant, rose and blush, with freckled varieties in between. Don’t even get me started on the truly ridiculous double-petaled varieties, which can only be procured by plant cutting; this florist is trying to be mindful of her neighbors’ gardens. A new leaf for a new season?

Just a few stems tied with a little silk ribbon are all you need. Stick that baby in an old bottle, ribbon and all, and bask in your genius. A little branch of spirea here, a couple fritillaria there. It’s not an exact science — messy and mixed is best.

Sometimes called a lenten rose because their bloom time falls during Lent, the hellebore is a funny little plant when growing. Its head nods downward, hiding its beautiful face. The mark of a true plant lover is continually stopping along a shady stroll to upturn a hellebore and peak inside. So even if you don’t have the heart to chop up your beloved babies, get to flippin’. It’s worth the extra bend, I promise!

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  • Gorgeous! I’ve been wanting to plant both some hellebores and clematis in my yard, neither of which did I ever consider as good bouquet flowers, but you changed my mind! Plantin’ some!

  • Oh Amy, I love this post so much (hellebores AND clematis??). I’ve totally been wandering around the past few months flipping flowers over too.

  • Last week I had camellias & hellebore from the garden in a vase inside and the hellebore died really quickly, within a couple days. Is there a secret, like with daffodils? (I know daffs hate to go in a vase with anything else and the sap kills other blooms.) I’m interested that you think their vase life is long…I’d love to make them work for me since they’re so pretty and so easy to grow!

    • Hi Carly-
      It is best to harvest your hellebore flowers when the stamens and anthers have dropped off and all that is left on the flower is the pistil, which is made up of the stigma, style and ovary. If flowers are cut before this point of development, they will not last well. Some folks also advise dipping the cut end of the stem into boiling water for 15-30 seconds.

  • Such striking flowers – I’d never heard of them (and don’t remember seeing them) before. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for them now!

  • I’m obsessed with hellebore right now! I’ve been researching to see where I can purchase plants in Texas. and I totally agree that the doubles are AMAZING :)

  • Oh I love hellebores so much. I don’t know if I can get away with then in Southern Califrnia.

  • P.S. I snip the flowers sans stems and float them in a shallow, pretty dish of water – they look like lilies in a little pond!

  • Great post! Hellebores are one of my favorites to grow for cutting. If you’re lucky, they’ll self-seed all around and you can transplant them to have an entire garden of them! Otherwise, prepare to spend a pretty penny on plants at the nursery.

    Carly – to answer your question about a secret to getting hellebores to last in the vase: do not cut them until the seed pod is forming in the center. See the photo above with the three blooms laying on the table…the burgundy one on the top is at the perfect stage for cutting.

  • Gorgeous arrangements and photos as always! I can’t get enough of those hellebores, and paired with the fritillaria I can barely stand it. I’m such a sucker for be-speckled blooms. We have one neighbor with a patch of hellebores growing at the base of a magnolia tree. I am guilty of trespassing onto their yard, and getting down on my knees to have a better look and snap a photo. The ones I planted last year have not yet bloomed. But the healthy foliage gives me hope!