Friday, February 13, 2009

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince'

Well, you've been asking for more plant posts and I've been promising more plant posts, so here we go. The garden is waking up! A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Hamamelis 'Arnold Promise' was getting ready to burst. Then it got cold and Arnold decided to keep his head down for a few more days, but he's showing off magnificently now! The silvery-grey stems are all but obscured by brilliant primrose yellow flowers that will last the better part of a month, as long as the weather stays seasonably cool.

Just to the left of the path coming up to the front door, Helleborus 'Silver Moon' has opened its first flower, too (the buds have been there since Christmas!). This is a hybrid of Helleborus niger and either H. lividus or H. x sternii. I'm getting conflicting reports, which I think I mentioned a few posts ago. Either way, it's simply stunning--by far my favorite at this point because of its absolutely exquisite silver-marbled foliage and pure white flowers flushed pink on the outside. That said, it has a cousin, 'Ivory Prince', whose performance has also been second-to-none.

Helleborus x 'Ivory Prince' is a complex hybrid that involves several species and has come available on the mass market in just the past couple of years. Unlike the hellebores of years past, many of the new cultivars are now being propagated by tissue culture, which gets them to the market much more quickly and at a fairly reasonable price--'Ivory Prince' is a perfect example. It has beautiful, dark blue-green foliage--thick and leathery and of great substance--and beautiful ivory-white flowers that age to pink and eventually green. It's greatest attribute though, in my opinion, is its hybrid vigor. Hybrid vigor is not an uncommon occurence in plant breeding--two parents are crossed and the resulting plants (if it was a good cross) combine the best attributes of the two, which often results in offspring that grow larger, stronger and faster than either of the parents. Such is the case with 'Ivory Prince'.

From a one-gallon pot that was planted last fall, 'Ivory Prince' pushed up from under the oak leaves this week with more than a dozen stems of flowers, with at least 8 to 10 buds per stem. That's over 100 blooms on a 1-gallon plant! I'm waiting on it to open up just a bit more before I take a photo of it, but will post one just as soon as the flowers are open far enough to get a good shot of it. In the meantime, if you'll go to Google Images and look up "Helleborus Ivory Prince", you'll come up with all kinds of beautiful photos. As with most hellebores, this is a great one for the drier (not full-on drought) areas of the shady garden! It's certainly one that I'll never be without again.

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