British Columbia: Declining Hybrid Hellebores

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by dt-van, Apr 9, 2024.

  1. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    Vancouver, Canada
    Over the past several years I've noticed that several of the hybrid Hellebores I bought about 10-15 years ago have been steadily declining in size and vigour. One is Helleborus x hybridus "Sparkling Diamond" from the 'Winter Jewels' strain and another was Helleborus x ballardiae 'Pink Frost' or a close relative. Both did extremely well for the first 5 or 6 years, and the yard is someone brighter than before so that's not the issue. A third plant was Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Candy Love', aka 'Vancouver Medallion' which was widely planted here for the 2010 Olympics.
    My ancient H. orientalis seedling is still going strong after 30 years and a beautiful butter yellow single hybrid that I bought at the same time as the other three is doing great and producing lots of seedlings (though I've never grown one to blooming size).

    Since Hellebores are considered ' long-lived' I assumed that the decline was either due to climate change, or my fault for letting them get crowded out by the pesky (and impossible to eradicate) snow crocus, or for failing to fertilize them. However I've recently read that many of the newer hybrids are actually relatively short lived. Is this true for most Hellebore hybrid stains, or are some species combos worse than others? Are seed grown plants likely to be shorter or longer lived than tissue culture plants?

    I don't mind paying a high price for healthy, beautiful, trouble-free plants, but $30 for a Hellebore that "under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 5 years" seems a bit much. I'd like to add more Hellebore hybrids, especially some that are in the 12"-18" rather than 18"-24" range. Can anyone recommend hybrid varieties they have tried that seem to be longer lived (eg. thriving for at least 1o years.)

    Any reports on how other older plantings of H. 'Vancouver Medallion'/'Candy Love' are doing in the Lower Mainland? Any suggestions on what I can do to try to revive my declining plants?

    In general how can gardeners avoid 'flash-in the-pan' plants that aren't "good doers". I've had the same problem with many much-hyped Heuchera varieties that look great in the nursery, but are trouble-prone in the garden.
  2. Pieter

    Pieter Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Richmond, BC
    Some folks use the RHS Award of Garden Merit list as a guide and it's interesting to note there are is only one Helleborus hybrid on that list... FWIW that is WALBERTON’S ROSEMARY (‘Walhero’)....

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