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.
That 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.
Four 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.
After 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!
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.
The 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.
I’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.
I’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?
Kathleen Emery on
I just read in the NYT a piece featuring David Culp- his fave tshirt says
Born to Raise Hellebores
I want one