tiptoe through the hellebores

black orientalis hybridYES, YES, I KNOW: I have already told you I love hellebores. While waiting for mine to reach full bloom, I took an online tour this very cold morning of other hellebore plantings that are enviably farther along. Even if you cannot visit Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne’s Northwest Garden Nursery in Eugene, Oregon, a visit to their website is a must.

The O’Byrnes produce exceptional hellebore hybrids; the photo galleries they’ve posted show you their extravagant range to date. Another big producer of hybrids is Barry Glick’s Sunshine Farm and Gardens (mostly wholesale; limited retail). Take a virtual tour of his hellebore-carpeted Virginia woodlands now. In Virginia, Pine Knot Farms’ Dick and Judith Tyler are at it, too. Their website includes great growing information, and unlike Northwest, they are mail order. Or grow your own from seed, from Winterwoods. I am partial to the “black” ones and the yellows, like the clumps shown under an apple tree here last year.

orientalis hybrid

  1. margaret says:

    Welcome to awaytogarden. I am jealous–I wanted to go to Hitch’s Open Day as well. I would be delighted to see images–I am about to open up forums (next week sometime) on the site that will include the ability to upload images, or we can figure out another method.
    My hellebores are only partway up and barely starting to open–so late this year. And I only have your basic Galanthus species…not like Hitch. But soon…

  2. lpooljim says:

    Hi Margaret,

    I had a great time @ Hitch Lyman’s Open Garden Day event. Do you want to see any of my photos from his collection of snow drops and hellebores?

    Jim Eber

  3. Terryk says:

    Hopefully Maragret you get notification when someone comments on a post this old. I clicked on the link for winterwood and the site comes up but one can’t get to navigate their site.

    Are they still in operation? Do you have further details on where they are located?

    By the way, I love the dark ones too.

    1. Margaret says:

      @Terryk: I do see your comments and try to keep up…but that link works fine for me to Winterwoods. The email listed on their site is winterwoods [at] cavtel [dot] net (of course not spelled out like that). Sometimes when links aren’t reachable it can be a browser incompatibility issue or some issues with the pathway between your internet address and theirs, so try again — it’s just winterwoods [dot] net, though you may need www. or http://www. before it — and if not ask your service provider what’s up.

  4. Whitney Curtis says:

    Hi Margaret. I’m a young, fairly new gardener, though I grew up pulling weeds with my mom. I’m excited to learn more about these hellebores, my backyard is ALL shade so I’m glad to see these lovely. colorful flowers – and early bloomers at that.

    My question is this: Our trees provide lots of fallen leaves for organic soil but the ground is so hard it’s difficult to dig even a small hole! Does this mean it’s not as organic as I think or just that it’s hard Atlanta, Georgia clay? What should I add to it to make sure plants will be happy there?

    Many thanks for all your wonderful posts. I read every day! So joyful and inspiring!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Whitney. Sounds like hard clay, and also if it’s under tree roots, the combination can be pretty impenetrable. I have sometimes worked with a earth auger (like a giant drill bit on the end of a super-tough drill; I borrowed it) in such spots, to sort of insert smallish young plants into pockets, but sometimes if the trees are really old and the root systems vast, it can be a real uphill battle. Is this right under big trees?

  5. Whitney Curtis says:

    Hi Margaret! Thank you for the suggestions. Yes, our backyard is full of large, very well established trees. [If you have a moment, click on my name and you can see a picture!] This morning I planted a few hostas and ferns and the hole-digging went much better than I expected. But the ground is so tough, I don’t want it to inhibit the root growth of these new plants. I hope to plant a lot more, including hellebores! I’ll have to see where I can get an auger… :)

    1. Margaret says:

      @Whitney: Pocket planting among established trees is the toughest task and the toughest growing condition of all. Some dry shade things will do best if anything will. The hostas have big root systems (compared to the ferms, or say epimedium) so you can imagine they have a harder time finding a home in such spots. you will have to do a LOT of watering for quite some time, and if things don’t thrive, rescue them and try something else. Starting with small plants often is easier than trying to force full-grown things in there to acclimate, by the way.

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