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February 25th 2015

The Hellebore Appreciation Society

Written by
Floret

hellebore-21hellebore-20 I feel like a very late joiner to the Hellebore Appreciation Society.

For years, come mid winter, all of my gardening friends would be crawling around in their flower beds, heads cocked to the sky, admiring the pretty nodding flower of their prized hellebores. I would usually get down in the mud too and halfheartedly admire the crop. But for some reason, they just didn’t have the same effect on me that they did other gardeners.

hellebore-7
hellebore-8 hellebore-6That was until I started growing my own. Now every winter you’ll find me crawling around like a fool in my shade garden, oohing and aahing over the delicate nodding blossoms too. If we have company, I’ll make them get down low and experience the magic with me. Then I’ll whap off a handful of flowering stems and send them home a big ole bouquet.

hellebore-17 hellebore-16Four years ago I planted 50 baby hellebores on the north side of our greenhouses. It’s the perfect shady spot, protected from harsh wind and temperature extremes. Hellebores thrive in deep shade, planted into freely draining soil, rich in organic matter.

Each winter, before the flowers emerge I spread a thick layer of compost around the plants as an amendment. It also doubles as mulch, keeping weeds down for the remainder of the year. When new growth starts to emerge in mid winter, I go through and remove all of the tattered, ugly leaves so that floral display is more visible.

hellebore-12 hellebore-4 helleboreleavesAfter patiently waiting for them to establish and flower in abundance, this year they’ve finally hit their stride. As soon as the first flowers opened last month I realized how badly I wanted to expand the collection, so I contacted good ole Barry Glick ( aka the Hellebore King ) at Sunshine Farm & Gardens and placed an order for 250 more plants. They’ll be arriving in a few weeks and I can’t wait to get them in the ground!

hellebore-25
helleborestyling The number one question I get asked by flower lovers and designers, is how to get their cut stems to last longer in the vase. Have you ever cut a handful of near perfect blossoms, brought them inside where they looked amazing, only to find them completely wilted and dead the next morning? Yeah, it’s happened to me too! Nothing is more frustrating.

Well, here’s the magic secret for getting your cut hellebores to last in the vase. It’s all about practicing patience and harvesting them at the proper stage. I know this is hard! Trust me, I’ve broken this rule a lot, but every time I have, the beautiful flowers rarely last more than 24hrs. If you can just wait a little longer you be handsomely rewarded with long lasting cuts.

hellebore-26The key to telling a ripe hellebore from an unripe one is by checking the center of the flower. You’re looking for blooms that have dropped their stamens and started to produce seed pods. The more developed the seed pod, the longer the flower will hold.

You see the blossoms on the left side of the photo above? Those guys are “ripe” and the flowers on the right aren’t. I know, the ones on the right are prettier, but don’t be fooled, they won’t last like you think the will. The next two images show more examples of blooms at the proper stage for cutting.

hellebore-27 hellebore-28I’ve heard from so many florists that the cut stems they get from their wholesalers are almost always unripe. Many have reported that they’ve had the flowers crash more often than not, and no longer want to use them in arrangements because they are too nervous.

I’m testing out some different post harvest methods for young blooms including: Quick Dip, hydrating solution, submerging freshly cut stems in cold water, searing the stem ends with flame and boiling water. Hopefully one or more of these will to help to prolong and revive young blooms, when ripe ones aren’t available.

helleborewhiteI’d sure love to hear your experience with this flower!

Do you have any special tips or tricks that you use to lengthen the vase life? Do you have a favorite variety in your garden I should be adding to my Sunshine Farm & Gardens order? Are you already a member of The Hellebore Appreciation Society or do you laugh at your crazy gardener friends too?

35 Comments

  1. Courtney Denney on

    I really like what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and exposure! Keep up the superb works guys I’ve you guys to blogroll.

    Reply
  2. Mary Anne on

    I found that on the very same stem, there are both ripe and unripe flowers. I cut a bunch of flowering stems off the side of a clump to bring to the Reception area of my office this morning. Now I am afraid that some of the flowers will droop while others will stand firm. Is there something I should do in this case?

    Reply
  3. Essie Bowlin on

    Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve be aware your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely fantastic. I really like what you’ve received right here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which wherein you are saying it. You make it entertaining and you continue to take care of to stay it wise. I can’t wait to learn much more from you. This is really a wonderful website.

    Reply
  4. Sandra on

    Here in New Zealand my helleborus are flowering beautifully. I’ve taken a small amount of the stem off with a vegetable peeler and put straight into warm water as per the above instructions. I await the morning
    with hope.

    Reply
    • Floret on

      How did it do, Sandra?

  5. ron daguerre on

    After failing to keep them in water (no searing or anything which I will try) , we found that cutting off just the flowers and floating in water makes a wonderful display which lasts.

    Reply
  6. Elvire on

    Just wanted you to know that I love your website and blog, you inspired me to begin a flower garden in the Netherlands, hopefully I will be ending up with a lovely garden like you have!
    Also wanted to tell you about something I read on an Dutch weblog about Helleborus in the vase lasting longer. (http://tuinverhalen.blogspot.nl/2013/02/helleborus-tip-van-een-engelse-tuinvrouw.html)
    She wrote it from an old book (http://www.bol.com/nl/p/we-made-a-garden/1001004001595542).

    This is the truc:
    If you cut the stem vertically from bottom up to the first leave, the Helleborus will last much longer! Hope it will help you also having a much longer vase life for your helleborusses. Kind regards from the Netherlands! Elvire

    Reply
  7. Dani on

    Hello,

    Love these beauties!

    How did the post harvest treatment testing go? Also, would you mind sharing which varieties you’ve purchased? (Or love the most as a cut flower?) I especially adore the deep purples!

    Thank you for your beautiful post and all the info you share with us!
    ~Dani

    Reply
  8. Growing hellebores | CLOVERHOME on

    […] If you’d like to read more, or better see more, of these pretty flowers, have a look at these beautiful hellebores in a vase, beautiful hellebores grown at an allotment and a bounty of beautiful blooms grown by a farmer-florist. […]

    Reply
  9. Amy on

    I wanted so badly to use hellebores in my designs, but I had the same disappointing experience you described when I ordered them from wholesalers… limp, dying blooms. It was by reading informative blog posts from other designers and farmer like yourself… Love n Fresh Flowers and Saipua… that educated me about petals and sepals. Armed with the right knowledge, I found beautiful hellebores in the NYC flower market by growers Hautau and Sons in New Jersey, Now, I only order hellebores from Hautau, and I can confidently plan on designing with them for all my March and April weddings! My brides go nuts for them! So thank you for sharing… it’s such a huge help! My fiance and I just bought our own little piece of land, and I can’t wait to get my own hellies in the ground.

    Reply
  10. Market days March | CLOVERHOME on

    […] this month was with another plant, the hellebore! I saw hellebore everywhere, on Intagram, on this beautiful blog, in garden centres and at the […]

    Reply
  11. Lynne Thompson on

    I have many but an all time favourite is the beautiful little cameo piece by Antonia Ridge , For Love Of A Rose… The story of the creation of the Peace Rose. Anyone read it? I keep lending, losing , buying and lending it again….. Lovely read or gift

    Reply
  12. ivette on

    I have some seedlings (seed collected 2 years ago) in bloom for the first year. It was so exciting to see them open up.
    As it wasn’t that cold this winter overhere in the Netherlands all plants survived also the double flowering ones. Have some great black double ones. Bought at http://www.bastin.nl.
    Ripe ones last almost a week in a vase. I’m going to try splitting the stem as mentioned in the replies above. Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Drea @ Morning Glory Acres on

    I have been toying with the idea of falling in love with hellebores for several years, but I just didn’t let myself because I didn’t have the time and space! Your article would take anyone over the brink! They are on my list for next year as of two minutes ago! Too bad that’s so far in the future! :) Got another question tho.. Where do you buy spring bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips, and glads? Would absolutely LOVE an answer!! I keep floundering with little companies that sell not that great of stuff for big prices, and I’m fed up! Thanks!!

    Reply
  14. Julie @ Garden Delights on

    I adore hellebores, and somehow–even the fresh ones seem to last at least a week for me. I don’t do anything special–just place them in cool water quickly, but I can’t wait to see the results your trials produce. I started with 5 plants about 10 years ago, and they reproduced so beautifully that I have at least 200 throughout the garden. I especially love some of the organic hybrids that have resulted from crossing–but I’m still dying to add some double flowering hellebores to the mix. They really brighten up the winter!

    Reply
  15. Elaine on

    I have good vase life with the Gold Collection Helleborous, they have stiffer stems and flowers are outward facing, I have cream with a blush of pink, and pink ones, I slit the stems and they last several days in a vase if the first flower is ripe, the buds will continue to open too. I have other clumps of the nodding blooms, and they don’t last in a vase with the same treatment.

    Reply
    • Maryann Nardo on

      Well Barry, as you are the king of the Helleborus, do you have any suggestions for extending the life of cut flowers in the flowering stage?

      We had an enjoyable phone chat about a year or so back. Thank you for all the work you have put in to growing and providing your vast selection of plants.
      Maryann Nardo, San Rafael, Ca
      7petalsfloraldesign.blogspot.com

  16. Horst Ude on

    The trick is, that You must split the end of the stem 1,5 -2 cm with a knife. Than You can
    lengthen the vase life of Helleborus orientalis to 1 -2 weeks.
    I like very much the double forms of Helleborus orientalis and also of Helleborus niger.

    Reply
  17. Clare at The Flower Farm on

    I was just like you Erin, as it took me a while to appreciate Helebores beauty, but now I love them. I completely agree that the sectret is to leave them to ripen before cutting. I have found simply putting them into deep water and having a long drink to be the best/easiest conditioning method.
    I have planted some of the slate grey varieites this year, and cant wait to see them bloom.
    Loved the tip about cutting away the old leaves, I haven’t tried that before, thank you.

    Reply
  18. Butternut Gardens on

    Barry is the man! Has more than Hellebores also. Think I bought 1000 Hellebores from him a couple of years ago. Usually wait until they are ripe – think I got that tip from another great Farmer Florist – Jennie Love at LoveNFresh Flowers. If you give your Hellebores a great location and all the things they like, and you let some go to seed (all you home gardeners) you will definitely find baby Hellebores sprouting! A fantastic naturalizer. Thanks, Erin, for doing more formal experiments with post-harvest of “unripe” blooms! Every bit of info helps us all!

    Reply
  19. Elise Nuckols (Charleston Stems) on

    Thank you for the tip on when to harvest- this is the first I have ever heard that! Our trick for bringing them back from the “flop” is to submerge the bottom few inches in hot water for about 10-15 minutes, then re-snip and place in fresh water- and pop them back in the cooler. We have had a lot of success bringing them back from the near-dead! Always love your blog!

    Reply
    • Grace | eTilth on

      Elise, I simply didn’t believe you that you could bring them back from the flop. But when yesterday’s cuts drooped, I had to cut more for today. Boiled the water, took it out to the plant, cut the stems and immediately dipped them for 20 sec. The new blooms went into the bouquet. Since I had the water hot, I glared at yesterday’s stems, gave them a new cut, plunged them into the hot water and jammed them into a fresh jar of cold water. Then I gave them a stern talking-to, and glory be, they are now standing straight up!

  20. Fivefork Farms on

    We love Barry’s hellebores!! Thanks for the reminder to get our order in before he gets flooded!

    Reply
  21. splendid market on

    I love the hellebores in my shade garden by my front door, but love them even more cut in the home. Lovely specimens you have, I usually stick to the white and greens…

    Reply
  22. morgana on

    I definitely find a fresh cut and then plunge into hot (not boiling) but too hot to touch water helps, and then straight into cold water all the way up the stem. We can usually get 3-5 days out of unripe ones with this method.

    Reply
  23. Janis Harris on

    I am working on the logistics of getting some of Barry’s plants to me in Canada! Thanks for the always informative blog posts! You are awesome!

    Reply
    • Diane Miller on

      Hello Janis
      From Canada as well. Would love to know how you make out.
      Cheers Diane

  24. Kailla on

    Hellebore have long held me under their spell. I can see my own blooming next to a drift of snowdrops. I love the picotee varieties!! They are amazing garden plants and often heartbreaking as cuts. I have had some luck with Quick-dip, and keeping them cool, I just have a hunch that the warmth of indoors wilts them faster then most. It is the stem hardiness too that is the issue. In arrangements I will often prop the unripe blossoms on neighboring foliage so that you can see the lovely interiors and not notice so much when they wilt. I find that the H. Foetidus and H. Argutifolius, while not as varied and showy, hold up a little better because their stems seem less prone to drooping. These photos are gorgeous!

    Reply
  25. Jillian @ Fruition Flowers on

    I’ve long pined for suggestions to lengthen their vase life and have been told that my failed iris and tulips stems are closely related to my failed hellebores: mineral content in my tap water. As an avid gardener and employee of a wholesaler, I’ve often felt like a failure, but am pigheaded enough to keep trying. I’d love to hear how you go about torching the stem?

    Reply
    • Christine Glasson on

      I’ve been told the searing the ends in boiling water for 20 seconds does the trick. This is a tip from Sarah Raven one of our spectacular gardeners, florists and on-line shop. Check her out!!

  26. Julie Abrera on

    Can’t wait to see what works for preserving blooms. I long for them at the wholesale market but have had my heart broken too many times with wilted flowers the next day. My garden collection continues to grow and I plant them as close to the front door as possible as they are some of the first to blooms I see after a cold winter. Combined with daffodils, I make arrangements just for me and put on my dressing table. I am putting Sunshine Farm & Gardens on my road trip list – a nice drive from the northern Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

    Reply
  27. Laurie @ Hedgerow Rose on

    Ahh this post made me so happy, thank you!
    We’re moving this winter, and all I keep saying is please just let me see the Hellebores I planted last autumn in bloom before we go. ;) Beautiful photos, as always!

    Reply
  28. Madison Hartley on

    Searing the tips has always worked for me! I buy plants and cut from them (usually cheaper than the marker) then plant them when Im finished!

    Reply

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