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Graham's Hellebores

Posted by goswimmin 7b (mwenger798@aol.com) on
Sun, May 19, 02 at 20:15

Hi, has anyone ever purchased their plants from the website called 'Graham's Hellebores'? The pictures of course look wonderful, especially the red plants.
Apparently the person that growns the hellebores is in England and travels to the U.S. twice a year with the orders that he gets and drops them off here where someone sends them on.
I had tried to order this year but missed the cut off date and was told to reorder for the September delivery.
I would like to use this person but would rather hear if anyone has had experince with it and what was the result.
Mary from Gainesville, GA


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Graham's Hellebores

I was wondering about this place too.

Anyone try him befor?

Margaret


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

I was about to post this same question. I was wanting to try 2-3 of his Hellebores.
Bright blessings,
Dory


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

thanks to the people who emailed me privatly about Graham's Hellebores, I will not be buying any from him.
From what I have heard the quality is very poor. They are divisions of his plants, with no leaves or roots, to go through customs. Someone who got some from him, and others said it was no larger than a clothes pin.
I am so glad that I asked and you all responded. I hate to waste my time and engery with something that is not a good product.
It is very good that we have our our Hellebore forum now and can help each other out.
Mary from Gainesville, GA


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follow up on Graham's Hellebores

thanks to the people who emailed me privatly about Graham's Hellebores, I will not be buying any from him.
From what I have heard the quality is very poor. They are divisions of his plants, with no leaves or roots, to go through customs. Someone who got some from him, and others said it was no larger than a clothes pin.
I am so glad that I asked and you all responded. I hate to waste my time and engery with something that is not a good product.
It is very good that we have our our Hellebore forum now and can help each other out.
Mary from Gainesville, GA


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Mary,
You hit the nail right on the head. Web page hype is what I call it. Greed. Folks taking advantage of a high demand item. This forum hopefully will inform and help break the myths about hellebores. They are easy, have a huge climate range, can be grown from seed easy and can be divided and transplanted like any other hardy plant. There is no reason for their high prices and as more people start to understand hellebores the prices and availabilty will become resonable. Out standing clones of hellebores will always be expensive, but not seed grown or nursery row run divisions.

Kindly,
Bruce


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Bruce,
You also have hit the nail on the head. I have it on good authority that Graham Birkin sells his hellebores in the US because he can get more money for them there.

Tim


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Thank you so much for this post! I was about to send out a money order for 3 of them. Have a wonderful day, all of you.
Brightest blessings,
Dory


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Wow! I ordered three of them from him last year and while they didn't have much for top growth I was delighted at the huge, abundant roots. Now they're growing well and putting on plenty of top growth. Did I just get lucky? Even shipped from England these plants cost less than smaller plants available at my local garden centers. What gives?


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Shady character did you recieve the plants direct or through a broker? Maybe he is sending through a different broker or sending direct. Goswimmin was contacted by someone who bought plants 3 years ago through a broker. Other folks in this same year with the same broker had problems to. I have never purchased myself from this source but often wondered why he just sells to the USA and does not send plants in the UK.

Kindly,
Bruce


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Shady Character , did your plants bloom? Were they the colors you requested? If they have not bloomed you won't know for some time.


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Bruce--The plants were purchased in 2001 and as I understood it, Graham brought them over to the US and he and someone out east sorts, packages and ships them. Can't remember off the top of my head who that was.

Carol--That's a good question. I only got three plants and only one has bloomed so far and it was the deep "black" color I was wanting. 100% of the reason I purchased from Graham was that I could get divisions of plants that had already bloomed and have a reasonable idea of what color they would be. Much as I would love to do it, I don't have room to grow a bunch of seedlings and cull the ones I don't care for. Maybe it's time to get some land in the country ;)

Mark


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

One ofthe 'distributors' for the Graham plants was/is Russell Graham (no relation) in Salem Oregon. He told me privately when I visited his nursery last yearthat he had been disappointed in the quality of these plants and they were inferior to others available in the PNW, including his own....


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Hope people won't mind if I make a couple of comments.

1) I have been selling Hellebores to US nurseries for 8 years and all have repeat ordered.

2) I do sell Hellebores in the UK and the price is higher than that charged for divisions to US customers. I do not sell by mail order in the UK/EU but that is common practice for UK nurseries.

3) Those people who responded to the original message who had actually bought Hellebores from me said they were satisfied with the plants.

4) Plants shipped in fall are sent bare root and with leaves cut off. Cutting off Hellebore leaves is normal practice in fall/early winter as they can harbour viruses. Plants shipped in spring are bare rooted but have leaves and flowers. That could hardly be the case if they were as small as has been suggested.

Graham Birkin


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Mr.Birkin,
I don't mind if you make a couple of comments,I'm actually very glad that you have. It would have been nice if you had spoken up before now. It is too bad more of your satisfied costumers did not speak up also. Possibly it was the person from past years (in the USA) that messed up, or had a misunderstanding with a customer. It has been my experience that small misunderstandings can lead to the problems with the above post.

Another problem is the handling of bare-root plants after it has left your control. Plants in the USA are, for the most part, sold at the retail end as established potted plants. Bare-root plants are only handled on the wholsale end of the market.

How do you handle complaints? What guarentee do you have for the plants sold? Plants sold here in the USA are of generally high quality and all of the merchants offer complete satifaction guarentees. People expect a swift solution to a problem. I have always found that the truth falls in the middle when it comes to problems like these.

I hope people will give you, and your plants, a try. I think you should state plainly what action will be taken with a customer who is unhappy with a purchase. Including a time-frame for problems to be solved. What I do know is that you cannot please everyone. If someone feels that they have not been treated fairly they will tell other people about their experiences.

Kindly Always,
Bruce


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Well, I see Graham has responded to this thread since I first read it and started the process of joining GardenWeb - went out the garden, returned and got a confirmation:-) I have not posted on this forum before, but when I read the thread about Graham's Hellebores, I decided it was time to join and join in. I simply could not allow some of the misinformation posted to stand without comment.

I've known Graham for several years. He is one of the nicest people on this planet. When I say "known", I mean that I have met him, not just corresponded with him. In fact, I look forward to his spring and fall trips as we generally get a chance to get together, if only for too short a time. I have quite a number of his marvelous plants living happily and blooming in my garden. These are from both spring and fall deliveries. They are, BTW, not just "dropped off" in the US. They are hand carried to Virginia where Graham and Dixie pack and ship them to those who have ordered them.

This is, for a small nursery, about the only viable way of selling actual plants across the pond. If they were just shipped, they would be held by USDA for Lord only knows how long and probably be totally dead by the time they reached you, if they ever did. Graham's operation is a "hands on" operation from beginning to end. He breeds the plants (not a quick process), he grows them, he divides them, he washes the soil off the roots and hand carries them to the US where they are handed to a broker to get through USDA and then he brings them to Virginia and packs them to send to you. You can't ask for more involvement by the grower than that!!! If you have a question and send him an email, he will try to answer it for you.

Graham sells divisions of plants that he has bred for particular qualities, not seed grown strains that may or may not prove similar to the parents. What you may not realize is that each of his plants is one of a kind. They are not mass produced. Each of the plants he has bred is totally unique. The only way you can get an identical clone of a unique plant is through division...TC has not yet proven workable for Hellebores and they do not (as far as I know) propagate from cuttings. He can only divide each of his stock plants once every three years. Each stock plant yields only so many divisions (he has to leave enough of the Mother to grow on again!). Some of those may be "small", but they will grow given the right care.

If you want that kind of Hellebore and if you are prepared to deal with a bare root plant division, then, by all means, order from Graham with confidence.

If you are NOT prepared to deal with a bare root division, but are looking for a mature container grown plant, then you need to go elsewhere, where you will likely be buying a seed grown strain of something that may prove to be what you want or it may not.

I do not know how Graham actually makes ends meet selling his plants for the low prices he asks. You can, if you like, pay double or triple the price for the same divisions through Barry Yinger's Asiatica Nursery here in the US:-)

Bruce, I am not sure that all plants sold in the US are of uniformly high quality - I've received plants through the mail and bought them at local nurseries and garden centers for some thirty years and found quite a range of quality. While local garden centers will replace plants that people kill, most mailorder nurseries offer to replace only if they are found not true to name or arrive DOA. After a plant is in the hands of the gardener, I fail to see how a nursery can be held responsible for its fate - there are simply too many factors involved including the expertise level of the individual gardener. If a plant that is healthy when I receive it dies, I figure it's my fault and chalk it up to one of the min. three times I have to kill that particular clone before I give up on it:-)

I have, BTW, bought many bare root plants from mail order nurseries on a retail level. It is not solely a wholesale practice. Bare root plants, particularly fresh divisions, do need more care than a potted plant you buy at a garden center. No question about it. IMO, Graham's plants are worth that extra TLC.

Well, I will decend from my soapbox; hope you all have a little better understanding of Graham's Hellebores...and Graham.


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Hi Shadegarden,
I do agree that not all plants are of uniform quality and all merchants offer replacements. These merchants will not last long.

Gardeners today expect high quaility and a guarentee. The merchants who are being successful offer this and sell container plants. The old days of buying bare-root perennials has past except for bulbs and peonies. There may be a few companies offering bare-root, but I predict they will have less of the perennial market in the future.

I am sure Graham is a wonderfull person and wish him success. The proccess you discribe sounds good and hope people will purchace from Graham. I hope he understands our changing market with the demands people place on the merchant and the challenge of competition.

Gardeners now and in the future expect low price, high quality, with a full satifaction guarentee and a swift responce to their complaints in a friendly fair way.

Kindly,
Bruce


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Hi Bruce,

Well, I like low prices, same as anybody, but I also know that price has to be related to the plant in question. Plants that are unique, rare or hard to propagate are going to cost more...and they should; the grower has invested more time, manpower, supplies, etc. in that plant than in one that is common or easily propagated and should be paid for it.

Since I regularly buy plants that are bare root, I'm not sure what you mean. I tend to buy my plants from smaller, owner-operated nurseries who grow most of their own or at least grow on the plugs they buy in for at least a season. If plants are field grown, they are generally shipped bare root. Containers are, surely, the big thing for most nurseries, but I don't agree that those who still sell bare root are all that passe:-)

From Graham's standpoint, shipping potted plants to the US is impossible since all imported plants must be bare root by law - absolutely no soil or potting media. This is true for any plant entering the US from anywhere....all must have their roots washed clean. This is hard on plants and one of the reasons that Graham hand carries his over...you want the shortest time between bare rooting and shipping to buyer possible, plus if you simply ship, they can languish at USDA forever and die in the process.

Potting them up to ship to the buyers doesn't make a lot of sense, either...would simply add to the shipping costs on the buyer's end and the plant would still be the same. It takes several weeks for a division to grow new roots into any kind of media and Graham does not have a nursery here in the US to grow them on in. If you want them potted, then you need to get them from one of the nurseries who buy bare rooted plants from Graham and pot them up to sell. Will cost you more, but you'll get a potted plant:-)

High quality is a definite. I also expect swift response should I have a complaint, but, if by "full satisfaction guarantee", you mean that a nursery should replace any plant that dies on you for any reason...then, I cannot agree.

Marge


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Hi Marge,
To me, prices are just a representation of supply and demand. After all, it is a free market. If a plant is not profitable , then a grower will not offer that plant. If a plant propagates slowly, and is in demand, the price will be higher.

I'm glad that you buy your plants local. I think that it is the best way to buy plants. On top of being able to inspect a choice of plant, you're helping out the local economy.I have not seen many retail mail order catalogs that ship bare-root plants.

Hellebores do not like to be stored bare-root for any length of time and having their root tips trimmed off. Hybrids do not like to be divided. You can grow a plant just as fast from seed to flower, than you can from a small division. By using seed you will not have a clone. (For the price of a clone, you can purchace choice seeds, grow them, and then select your own hellebore.) Personally, I select my own from seed of choice plants.

If I were to buy a hellebore I would choose a reputable USA company (who clearly states a guarantee and is known to handle problems in a fast fair way).

Always Gardening,
Bruce


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Well, Bruce, sorry if I confused you.. I mostly buy mailorder..been doing it for some 30 years. Some of the mailorder firms I buy from ship some plants bare root. I do buy from local nurseries and garden centers, too, but it's mostly mailorder. Not living in the PNW, it's hard to find what I want locally. PNW is so chock full of great nurseries selling marvelous plants that I'm green with jealousy.

No plants like to be stored bare root for any length of time:-) However, you cannot grow a Hellebore from seed to flower as fast as you can get flowers from a bare root division. It takes, under general garden conditions (breeder John Dudley in Tasmania says he can get flowers in 2 seasons), at least three years from seed to flower. I have had some of Graham's divisions flower for me the spring following fall planting! And, of course, some of his spring shipments are in flower when I get them. They come with leaves and any flowers that the division has, while fall shipped plants have leaves removed.

Graham removes all his hellebore leaves in fall as a matter of course, to reduce potential disease...I leave mine on as I want the evergreen foliage for those that are evergreen:-)

If you are not particular about what you want and you enjoy growing from seed and have the time, there's absolutley nothing wrong with doing that. I have, at present, at least a hundred baby hellebores in pots from seed from Hellebore list exchange - Lord only knows what they'll turn out to be, but it's fun seeing them germinate and speculating.

But, if you want a yellow double or a picotee or another specific plant, you are much better off buying a division and getting it. It takes years of careful cross breeding to get the plants that Graham offers - he's been doing it for over 20 years - and, personally, I don't have the time, patience, knowledge, etc. to do what he does.


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Hi Marge,
All my Hellebores flower in two to three years from seed. In the third year they are very large plants for a seedling. It is amazing how fast they grow. All the hellebore x hybridus that I have divided have flowered in the next season. I leave the divisions on the large size, do not trim root tips and replant promptly. The seedlings in the third year will be of the same size and vigor as these plants. My conclusion is that x hybridus does not like to be divided, seedlings will out grow them. This is why seed is the most used method of growing hellebores. Some hellebore species divide and recover much faster than x hybridus. H. x hybridus are hybridised for their flowers not for the ease and recovery of dividing.

Many perennials store fine in cold storage. I believe hellebores is not one of these perennials. If they did store well there would be more bare root clones offered. Again this is why seed grown plants are offered.

In a post above Shady chacacter states that he purchased hellebores in 2001. Out of 3 hellebores only 1 flowered this year. I am glad your hellebore flowered so fast.

John Dudley suggest that a high per cent of the double seed he offers will produce double flowered hellebore. Senico Hills in NY sells seed grown hellebores from seed of Will McLewin and you can read post in this forum of the high per cent of the seedlings being like the pod parent. Other companys are making claim of high per cent in uniformity. No doubt seedlings will vary.

Again, I wish Graham success and hope people try his hellebores out and come to their own conclusions. I think this thread has been a good thread for both Graham and people wishing to purchace his beautiful hellebores.

Kindly,
Bruce


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Im going to give an order soon. I still have a few bare spots in the garden which I would love to fill with Hellebores... Am I hooked or what?
Bright blessings,
Dory


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

I prepaid and ordered in the fall of 1999, about a dozen of Graham's hellebores. I drove from PA to VA to pick them up. The divisions were scant and some died before the next summer. Others have bloomed this year for the first time.
I do have two nice yellow flowered plants from the lot but it took a long time for them to recover.
One of the plants I ordered as white spotted turned out pure white, not what I requested but no way to rectify it.
I grow many species and cultivars of hellebores and exhibit at the Phila. Flower Show.
Some of my plants winning ribbons there are 'Mrs. Betty Ranicar', x nigercors, x ballardiae, lividus phaedar strain- not hardy. Many of my hellebores are container grown and lots are planted in the garden. I also grow hellebores from seed ( sternii ashwood, 'Boughton Beauty', nigristern, torquatus, lividus, viridis and hybridus.)
My plants of 'Mrs. Betty Ranicar' were mailed to me, bareroot. One had been cut back a bit, the other was in tact and the one not subjected to surgery fared better than the other. These were sent in June several years ago and came from the southern hemisphere where they were going into winter conditions but arriving in summer here, so the adjustment was tougher than normal. However, they did recover well.
Having discussed these plants with other gardeners, I conclude that the divisions were not adequate in size.
I did not order again from Graham.
Carol


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

I am sorry that I didn't see this thread earlier but for any who wander on to it I would like to comment.I ordered 15 of Grahams Hellebores last fall. They were all good sized divisions.They all survived the winter and about half bloomed.The pompous individual commenting earlier on how plants in the US are always high quality etc.etc.clearly is delusional and incredibly arrogant lecturing Graham Birkin on hellebores. The seed strain plants may satisfy this individual but they are not in the same league as these plants.To get similar quality plants from US nurseries such as Heronswood are at least as expensive if not considerably more. I ran into this thread when searching for Grahams website to order more of his great plants for the spring.

Kirk Z.


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

I haven't seen this post in a while, and it does raise a number of interesting questions.

I only have one of Graham's plants. It is of the hybridus "black" genre, and I bought it several years ago as a division. The first year it produced a flower. The second year it produced another flower plus a smaller less-developed bud. I was fortunate to get approximately 15 seeds the second year because it has not bloomed since. The seedlings it produced are now far bigger and more robust than the parent. Hopefully, a few will bloom this year, and I expect all to bloom next year. It will be interesting to see the variation in the seedlings since it was open-pollinated that year and in fairly close proximity to 2 H. atrorubens plants.

Graham is no doubt one of the premier hellebore growers of his generation. From the photos I have seen, he grows nice plants; but the notion that they are somehow unique or particularly remarkable seems misleading to me. There are tons of hellebores of equal or greater quality that can be acquired on a number of continents these days.

While I agree that if you want a particular plant you must get a division or tissue-culture product, I do not agree that you need to rely on a division or tissue culture to get any particular sort of plant. If you want a picotee or double or whatever, there are many, many places one can get a healthy seed-grown plant of equal or better quality than the ones pictured on Graham's site. And there is no doubt in my mind that a healthy, seed grown potted plant that is equal in quality to a similar division will outperform it every time. I simply do not like to buy bare-root hellebores and do not think consumers should bear the responsibility that it offers in general. The catch of course is that you must buy a blooming-size plant to see what you are getting.

Having said that, I sort of like the direction Graham is moving in. I like the idea of seeing pictures of the plant you are buying. As I recall, he could not guarantee you are getting a division of a particular plant although he would guarantee you are getting a division of a particular sort of plant (e.g. a double pink, white with central zone of merged spots, apricot, etc... ).

As for the issue of a guarantee for the survival of sold plants, Graham has done the right thing. There is no way you can guarantee the survival of a bare-root hellebore in the hands of most consumers unless you intend to give lots of replacements or refunds.

Amazingly though, no place I know of has yet offered photos of specific individual plants for sale. Even when sold as blooming size, plants are generally grouped by color or pattern and so it is still a bit of a guessing game. With current technology, this is a fairly simple concept...sort of like pictures of used cars. Click the thumbnail, view it, then purchase it if you like it unless it is already sold (I can see it now in neon lights "Joseph's hellebores: click it, view it, buy it, grow it"). Ha, if only I were of a commercial mind!

If people want a particular type of plant of a good or superb quality, then it is very possible to get just that. Many people continue to insist that certain "breeders" and plants are better because "they have been breeding for 20 years". It is true that we are fortunate to have had many great plantsmen and plantswomen who devoted time and attention to hellebores. The fact is, however, if a person right now were to go out and purchase a few dozen high-quality specimens, s/he would be able to produce equal plants to those of the "breeders" who have worked for 20 years. The reason is because much of the hard work has already been done. All one need do is get rid of the unwanted plants and continue keeping the cherished and/or special ones.

Another thing I think is interesting is the notion of hand-pollinated vs. open-pollinated (I realize I am going beyond the Graham subject here, but frankly I am a little bored and hellebores are not blooming yet). I laugh when I read things like "we adhere to a strict regiment of hand emasculation" or "these are hand pollinated plants" or "these are F1 hybrids". What does this really mean? If you had two typical plants and hand-crossed them, does that mean they are good plants? I say no. It generally takes high quality plants to make high-quality offspring (although nice surprises are always a possibility).
What direction are you headed when you hand-pollinate? Are you trying for a clearer white with a particular flower shape for example or are you simply doing the work of bees?

Well, hellebores are wonderful plants but they will be revolutionized before long. More people are growing them and realizing the benefits of hand pollination, provenance, etc.... Tissue culture plants are already being sold, and there is a greater pool of quality than ever before. I will continue to buy seed and seed-grown plants that are not bare-root.


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

hello all ,

To my opinion this discussion is somewhat too negative , focussing on one breeder .
The bare root problem concerns all breeder and even , I think , the non commercial who wants to send a plant to a friend gardener who is living in a region where the local crops are strongly protected by all kind of phyto sanitary rules .
It is not my right to give critics on local laws ( there is enough work over here ) , but I may perhaps suggest that there is some exaggeration .
People who are afraid for infections may take all kind of precautions , it is known that they take more risks to get heavily infected one day and become a danger even for their doctors .
As we can not change laws , we may perhaps change the cultural conditions of the plants .
Is it possible to prepare the Hellebores by water- or aqua culture ?
Is it possible to prepare them in glass- or rockwool ? All my orchids are in rockwool and a test with tomatoes was successful .
At last , if the plants come by cuttings (divisions , clones ) it is perhaps beneficial to use a rooting chemical .

For those who had no success with the clones they bought , I only suggest not to plant directly in their garden but in big ( deep ) pots .
This enables the gardener to pay more attention to this new plants at start .

In general I agree with Joseph except for two critical remarks :
Some people over here ask professionals to set up their garden , it is a raising business . They give good money for named cultivars . Named does not only mean protected but may also mean a cultivar coming from a famous breeder . This is not my way of doing , but I do not see where is the problem .
Yes , in this context misleading information is never far away but this seems to me a more general problem and not unique to this subject.
I always suspect the pictures who are taken under artificial conditions and modified by special effects .

Another point concerns the unique Hellebore . Mostly the "super" Black is given as example but there are other forms and it is told that you can not breed for this exceptional trait .
Tissue culture seems not the best solution in this case .
( note ; some variegated hosta can not be perfectly propagated by TC , probably for the same reasons ) .

johan


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Re: the bare root problem: I'm fairly new to Hellebores. I started with a dozen of the Pine Knot plants last fall. This spring I impulsively bought three H. atrorubens that were "dirt cheap." This was during Wayside's "we've got to get rid of this stuff before it crokes" spring sale. Well, what I received was not only bare root - it was all root and nothing but root. I potted them up in some good dirt, snuggled the pots in under the gardenias, and babied them all summer. They were soon putting up leaves. I planted them in the ground in early September and they've put on steady growth ever since. Never give up on them. Just a humble suggestion from a novice who didn't know any better.


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

Whether bare rooted or seed raised, it is TLC or the lack of it that kills the plants. Graham and others raise and breed their plants with the utmost care. Hand pollination and selection are key in getting what you want. If you're prepared to do that yourself, raising your own seedlings for 2-3 years before you see them flower and have any idea of your success then, good-on-you, you're already addicted and can join the club. If you want a flying start then choose the best that Graham and others have on offer and proceed from there. That's what most of the great growers have done for the past 100 years.
I have a huge respect for Graham and would gladly buy from him again, whether to grow or to breed from. I suspect the vast majority out there however, are simply content to get a good form of a plant with a known colour for a reasonable price, rather than factory-style produced muddy purple open pollinated rubbish. Plant it wih a bit of appreciation for what it needs, a bit of TLC and enjoy it for the next 40 years, because that's the sort of value we get from Hellebores.

Cheers, Greenmanplants


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RE: Graham's Hellebores

I haven't bought from Graham. But there are other hellebore growers out there, too. Earlier this year, I bought Mail order a flat of 50 plants. I divided with a co-worker. My 25 are thriving. I've provided a link. I was unable to specify color, so, in that respect, Graham might be better for you. However, this should give me a good variety. If you want bulk and surprises, this is the way to go. Extremely healthy plants in little bitty pots.

Here is a link that might be useful: A Breeder/Grower in West Virginia


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