Now I’ve seen everything… For the first time ever, a hybrid between two very different hellebore species is available to gardeners.
Helleborus x sahinii ‘Winter Bells’ is a hybrid between two well known species, H. foetidus, sometimes known as the stinking hellebore, and the Christmas rose, H. niger. The hybrid looks more or less as you’d expect. Its growth habit is rather like that of H. niger but the plant is a little taller and with pendulous flowers intermediate in size between those of the parents. In color, they open pink on the outside and cream within, then fade towards green.
There have been many attempts to cross these two species, but at K. Sahin Zaden BV, a Dutch seed company better known for creating new annuals, in 2004 two breeders managed to raise just one seedling from one pod of seeds. This plant is the result. It was named for the company’s founder, the late Kees Sahin.
As well as its attractive coloring and pretty pendulous flowers, ‘Winter Bells’ has two other unusual features. It has an erratic flowering period, and has even been known to bloom in August. It also roots from cuttings and the young plants may flower just a few months later. But don't go getting ideas, propagation is prohibited. The plant is also sterile.
This is an altogether extraordinary plant, available now in North America only. I’ll let you know when the plant is available in Britain.
Much of the information in this post comes from John Grimshaw’s article on new hellebore hybrids in the December 2010 issue of the Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine, The Plantsman. Unfortunately, it is not available online.
You can order Helleborus x sahinii ‘Winter Bells’ from Heronswood.
Images © Takii Europe