I have been admiring Pine Knot's Pacific Frost for over a year, however a cool Virginia summer just does not happen. Has anyone tried it and been successful in spite of summer heat?
I don't believe heat is so much the issue - this plant is native to Corsica and Sardinia and can tolerate significant heat and sun - as is the summer humidity. You may find fungal issues and aphids a big problem in high summer humidity. Can you grow just the plain Corsican hellebore in your climate?
FWIW, I don't find 'Pacific Frost' nearly as robust a plant as 'Janet Starnes', which offers similar variegation. Pacific Frost petered out in my garden after a single season while Janet is still going strong after 5 years although not quite as intensely variegated as at first. The best variegation on either of these plants will come from a sufficiently sunny exposure.
I have not had any problems with aphids with my hellebores, I don't have that many, maybe 6 or 7, I actually liked it for its blossoms first. I had not considered Janet Starnes; I looked it up, and I must say the photos I found are are beautiful. I do not have any argutiflorius, so I am open to suggestions.
Sandy, while I'm not trying to dissuade you from trying one of the variegated forms, I'd suggest you go with the straight species of argutifolius first and see how well that does in your climate. First, it is a very tough species, perhaps the most tolerant of hellebores to sun, heat and drought and pretty adaptable to a range of locations. And it is a lot easier (and cheaper) to obtain than the variegated forms, so not such a loss if it fails. And if the flowers are the attraction, the species will produce heavier flowering of the same appearance than either of the variegations.
And congratulations on your ability to avoid hellebore aphids so far :-) They are particularly nasty little pests, perhaps three times the size of typical aphids and are extremely common here in late spring as the flowers have fully gone over. Easy to get rid of, though - cutting off the old flowers stems works for about 95% control, hosing the plants down with a good stream of water takes care of the rest.
You have always been such a wonderful source of information, and I so much appreciate it. I am certainly open to trying a nonvariegated varity argutiflorius, especially if they blossom better than the others: What do you suggest?
Sandy, just locate a plain ole Helleborus argutifolius, a Corsican hellebore. Plant in a fair amount of sun (late afternoon shade OK) and see how well it fares in your climate. If that does well, then try your hand at a couple of the named forms, like 'Silver Lace' or 'Pacific Frost'.
I'm in coastal VA, zone 7b, and have grown H. argutifolius in several forms for many years. Heat doesn't seem to be an problem with them, but all Hellebores, and especially the caulescent forms (argutifolius, lividus, and foetidus) are sensitive to drainage issues once summer begins. This should be less of a problem in inland areas than it is for me. Occasionally argutifolius will be killed back by a hard freeze, in which case flowering stems can be lost, but they are often regenerated along with a new flush of foliage.