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Hellebore Breeding

Posted by Richard_Harvey S England GB (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 10, 02 at 16:17

I would be interested to know (as I plan to try some new crosses this year) if anyone has personally crossed any of the following :

Helleborus Dumetorum x Helleborus Hybridus
Helleborus Purpurascens x H.Hybridus

Also H.Vesicarius - would this cross with H.Hybridus ?.

I have not yet crossed species hellebores with hybridus - I'm uncertain what percentage success would be - for example crossing dumetorum with hybridus - is it just luck what the offspring would be or are there rough percentages, say that 25% would show dumetorum qualities for example ?!!I suspect the answer is it's just a lottery.

Another question - anyone any detailed info on colour inheritance from their own actual hellebore crosses ?

thanks

Richard


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
The success rate of crossing species hellebores with examples of H.x hybridus should be high, after all, H.x hybridus originated from crosses made between the acaulescent hellebore species.

I think that it's important to have an aim when crossing hellebores. What qualities are you hoping to carry across from H.dumetorum? I'm guessing that you want the delicate foliage of dumetorum and the x hybridus flower colour, so it would make sense to use a H.x hybridus that already has fairly narrow foliage as opposed to a great big bold plant with huge leaves.

Also, which plant are you using as the seed parent? If you have enough flowers, I guess it would be sensible to make the cross both ways.

I'm sure that people are trying to cross H.vesicarius with H.x hybridus although I don't know if anybody has managed it yet (I hope not!!).

I grow several examples of H.x hybridus but much prefer species hellebores and grow many plants of every species, including several intermediates (all wild collected). This leads me on to my last point, are you sure that you have genuine, pure purpurascens and dumetorum, is the provenance of the plants known?

I do have the details of where I obtain my wild collected hellebore plants and seed if you're interested.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hello Tim, At the moment I am crossing plants that look a promising cross, basically 'like' colours with each other. For example Eric Smith Blacks with Eric Smith Purples/both selfed with each other (yes I know the pitfalls of continued selfing !!!), this years crosses include atrorubens with dark red/purple hybridus, niger (harvington hybrids) and potters wheels strain with x Sternii (trying for a few Eric Smith type crosses!!)plus hybridus crosses including strain of the night/reds/picotee(supposedly according to the label !)/pinks, along with a french bought assortment of spotted whites and reds.

With dumetorum, I'm interested in just it's plain green colour as I'm a great admirer of argutifolius. I have had my first self sown hybridus seedling this year which turned up in one of our borders - it's inside is the same green shade as the aforementioned, but the outside is a purple-green shade, the leaves showing torquatus parentage. I'd love to cross this withe the dumetorum, hence my earlier question, so I will give it a try. I thought I would try the Dumetorum as the seed parent, although to this year I have no experience of using it as such.

As to the provenance of the purpurascens and dumetorum - this is my second year in hellebore breeding!!I'm not sure - do you mean was the seed they grew from , from their natural haitat abroad ?! - I do not know, as I bought them as raised plants.

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
Yes, by provenance I mean't do the plants have a traceable history, did they come with collection numbers?
The problem is that many nurseries buy one batch of wild collected seed (almost always from Will Mclewin) and once these plants reach flowering size, they sell some and keep some as stock plants so that they don't have to buy more seed.
They grow all these different hellebore species together which almost certainly cross with eachother. This is where the problem starts. Take H.torquatus for example, a hugely variable species. When the nursery sows their supposedly self-pollinated seed, they think that they are sowing pure seed, when in fact it is probably hybrid seed. When these plants reach flowering size and display wide variation, the nursery isn't going to know whether this is a result of another species genes being present in the plants or whether the plants are just showing the wide variation present in that particular species. Not that the nurseries care about this, they will still put a H.torquatus label on them regardless. A dispicable act and one that really annoys me.

With regard to which way to do the cross, I think it depends on what qualities you want to pass on to which plant. Are you wanting to breed the purple out of the hybridus flower so that it is pure green?

It's a massive subject, we could go on for weeks!!

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Unfortunately no collection numbers - it's a bit of a minefield out there with regards these plants !!. It's interesting that you ask if my aim is to breed the purple out of the green flower. No! - the two colours work well together.

The hybridus seedling in question has a 'single' 'Starry' shape also - you hardly see diversions from the perfectly formed, round-shaped blooms in the reference books (barr the 'party dress group etc), but I'm quite taken by a fresh new shape.Perhaps the staid existing flower types could do with some competition (and I'm not taking about the shockingly awful doubles....)

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

WOW!! At last, someone else who agrees with me that Hellebores with double flowers are horrific!! The best description of them that I've heard so far is that they look like Dahlias gone wrong.

You're right, it is a minefield. I like to do my bit, especially when it comes to using the correct name for the hybrids which is of course H.x hybridus. I wish that people would stop using 'orientalis hybrids', it really annoys me. There is simply no justification for it. I sometimes feel like I'm banging my head up against a brick wall....

So, it's the flower shape that you're interested in, for some reason, I hadn't thought of that. I imagine that with that colour combination, the flowers look like those that are typical of many examples of torquatus. You say that the leaves show torquatus parentage,all in all, it sounds like a good looking plant. I'd be interested to know how the cross goes.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

My H.Dumetorum 'Apple Green' has shown me its first bloom - here's a choice what to pollinate it with !! Having few buds open at the moment, it's between the green torquatus type mentioned above, or a beautiful deep red Hillier hybrid, or hanging on in there to who knows when, until my first ever Sternii buds open. Roll on February, when I'll be spoilt for choice on which flowers to pollinate !.

On the subject of hooding x hybridus - if the emerging buds have had pollen dusted on their anthers before their own have been receptive, some say they they do not need emasculating, but is it essential to 'hood' the plants. If so, would small muslin 'bags' be appropriate ?

thanks

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

If you've got more than one flower, why not pollinate one flower with pollen from the green and the other with pollen from the red. If you've only got the one flower, well, uhm, toss a coin!!?

You're right about being spoilt for choice, the possibilites are almost endless. I don't make all that many crosses, I'd find it all too easy to get carried away and then have no room for all of the resultant plants.

I reckon muslin should be fine for hooding the flowers, it's light and breathable which is whats important.
My Hellebores are on the verge of flowering, as yours are too I imagine. I find myself almost wishing my life away at this time of year, they sit there in bud for what seems like months. Not long now.....

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

my x hybridus seedlings are coming up like the proverbial cress, how about your species ones ? I have only had two Niger seedlings appear - they seem very 'slow' and weak compared to the above.

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

My x hybridus have also germinated and are growing strongly. As for the species, H.multifidus ssp.bocconei started about a month ago and has already produced true leaves but the rest of the species really only started a week or so ago. Haven't had any niger germinate yet. I've had a big problem with seedlings not shaking their seed coat off this year, how about you? I find that some years are worse than others. I tend to wrap the seedling in a piece of damp kitchen towel and leave it in place for half an hour, this softens the seed coat which can then be removed, albeit carefully. One of those jobs that I detest doing, especially to dozens of seedlings.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim - I have only had a few seedlings still with their seed coat attached - I treat mine roughly, by scraping off from the seed leaves with a plant tab!!!!.

Can you answer this question, as I can find nothing along its lines in the books: I have just pollinated a dumetorum flower (parent) with dark red x hybridus pollen - am I wasting my time ?. Having seen dumertorum flowering for the very first time, I have noticed the edge of the flower is a distinct lighter green 'picotee' which, if it did cross with the aforementioned, seems an interesting plant to breed with.

Have you tried crossing foetidus with argutifolius, x sternii (or niger - possible ?!!) at all ?

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
With regard to acaulescent hellebores, I've only ever crossed x hybridus with x hybridus or species with other species, never x hybridus with species, although I don't see any reason why the cross wouldn't work as x hybridus plants are made up of various species. Breeders do it all the time to refine their plants. Say for example, they have a good yellow x hybridus but want to improve it further, they might cross it with a good form of pure H.odorus. By doing this they may get a clearer or cleaner yellow. So no, I don't think you're wasting you're time at all. Couldn't possibly speculate on the outcome though, I'd be interested to know what the resultant plants look like.

With regard to crossing foetidus with other species within the caulescent hellebore group, there is the odd rumour going around that foetidus has been crossed with other species but there is no hard evidence to support these claims. Personally, I think it would be a waste of time trying.
The other caulescent species, argutifolius, lividus, niger and of course x sternii do cross with eachother. It is generally accepted at the moment that acaulescent hellebores cannot be crossed with caulescent hellebores, although I'm sure that plenty of people are trying and it'll only be a matter of time before one crops up.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Sometimes the fact that the books say something is a waste of time or impossible makes you want to prove them wrong just for the sake of it !! I would like to try argutifolius with foetidus this year..

By the way Tim, have you seen my posting on the gardening in the uk forum with regards the RHS show ?!

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Just seen your posting about the RHS show. I think that Ashwood Nurseries were there last year, can't remember if it was January or February. Anyway, it's where they unveiled H.x pink ice (niger x thibetanus).
An awful looking plant with a name to match!!

I'm sure that they'll be there this year too, along with a few smaller nurseries selling hellebores.


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

In Wednesdays' Times, I saw a photograph of a new Ashwood hellebore, named Helleborus "Briar Rose", a cross between H. Niger and H. Vesicarius !! I quote ! " held facing outwards and several to the stem, the flowers favour H.Niger in shape and size, yet their colour - ivory with a feint peppermint cast and a damson aureole fading to their edges - suggests the influence of something more uncommon". The flower looks like a stunner, putting it bluntly !!

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Mmmm, The purist in me awakens!! Always have preferred species hellebores, always will. The name 'Briar Rose' is faintly familiar but I'm not sure why. I don't buy hellebores from Ashwood anymore (have a far superior source) so I threw last years catalogue away, wish I hadn't now!! I may have seen it in the catalogue but can't be sure, anyway, wherever it was it was like a 'watch this space' announcement with very few details.

I do see why people like plants like these, I just don't like them myself. Like doubles I suppose, you either love them or hate them (for me the latter). The flower sounds intermediate between niger and vesicarius, I wonder how many attempts and how many years it took to successfully complete the cross?

Bet It'll be expensive when it's released too. Ashwood charge around 20 for x hybridus with double flowers. I dread to think what people will be prepared to pay for 'Briar Rose' (awful name too).

There is a chance that I'll find the flower attractive I suppose but what about the rest of the plant? Does it still possess that 'helleboreness'? Vesicarius is a stunning plant in it's own right and as for niger, well, I like the pure white flowers just as they are. Horses for courses I guess!!

How are your hellebores doing? All of my x hybridus all in full flower. Species in flower so far are atrorubens, croaticus, (true)orientalis and odorus. Isn't this the best time of the year?

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim - the photograph only showed the flower, perhaps the foliage isn't quite as good !.

My plants are putting on a good show at the moment - I've dark pinks, spotted pink/whites (x. hybridus) showing open blooms, as well as niger 'Harvington Hybrid' - quite an exceptional plant - the flowers are at least 7>8 cm span. My first (new) Atrorubens has opened its first bud - I thought the colour would have been a bit darker in shade, but having said that, it looks a good shape - worth using in crosses. One of the plants I have been most excited about this year is Dumetorum 'Apple Blossom' - bought last year for the small sum of 1.75 - it has produced numerous blooms, has appeared to set seed very quickly - albeit having been hand-pollinated !. This raises a question you might be able to answer - I have hand pollinated dumetorum and selfed most of the flowers - they all seem to be producing seed pods ok - a couple of the flowers, I pollinated with a great ! dark reddish/pink x. hybridus - and it is setting seed also - does this mean that my the last cross has been successful - or is it a case of just wait and see !

A number of my x. hybridus are very slow flowering, namely, my Eric Smith Black and Purples !!.

Having mentioned the above Plantsman ! I read a few years ago now about Eric Smith and his sheer enthusiasm for hellebores on pages 115>118 of 'Hellebores' by Rice/Strangeman that got me completely hooked !

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Saw my first ever Thibetanus today ! surprisingly, in a large garden centre - however, after hyping myself up over one, its flower wasn't out of the ordinary,it looks a bit like a pink-tinged anenome !. The extraordinary thing was the price tag, a HORRENDOUS 35 EACH !!!!!!!!!! I swiftly moved on to the hybridus plants, which although not rare, seemed very good value !

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
35 for thibetanus is disgraceful. I got my thibetanus from Will Mclewin at Phedar Nursery (where I get all of my hellebore plants and seed). I paid 11 for mine which is Will's top price for thibetanus. The divisions are priced from 5 to 11.

I'm going up to see Will in a few weeks, my bank balance is going to take a serious hiding!! Going back to your question about the dumetorum/x hybridus cross, there are so many factors involved ie. was the plant around other hellebores, were the flowers hooded etc. I wouldn't like to say what the outcome will be. If you've pollinated a few days on the trot then I think that you have got a good chance of success. At least the pods are swelling, worst case scenario is you'll end up with dumetorum (if pure to start with), that can't be bad!!

With the mild weather we are having, the hellebores are coming on leaps and bounds. I have niger in bud just about to open, which is early for me, about 3 or 4 weeks I reckon.
viridis ssp.occidentalis is about to flower for me, there is a wild colony growing about 25 miles away, I can't wait to go and see them.

Have you had the strong winds where you are? We have and I'm amazed that none of my hellebores have been flattened!

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding Q's

Hi Tim and Richard,
Sorry this so long of a post :) I am new to breeding plants. I mostly deal with nursery plants, but not the breeding aspect. I have a small collection of hellebores and would like to try to cross some of them. I basically decided this two weeks ago. So I am new, but understand plants. I see lots of talk about breeding to produce new flower colors and forms, but what about unique foliage also. The reason I ask is that I have two variegated hellebores. Both labeled as H. orientalis hydrids. They are marked as Purple seedlings that were open pollinated with orginally purple parents of the same species. I worked at a nursery that purchased them wholesale from Phillip Curtis Farms in Oregon, USA. Unfortunatley Phillip Curtis closed a couple years ago and I am currently tracking down from who Phillip Curtis got them from in England. The nursery I had worked for bought 800- 1 gallon labeled helleboresas as going out of business stock. I got first picks of the shipment and found these two variegated plants in the shipment. One has white and pink swirled variegation in the leaves and tends to be less vigorous and has smaller leaves than the standard H. hydrids, It's blooms are dark purple. The other has lime green patches and swirls in the leaves and is very vigorous and has exceptionally large deep purple blooms.

So I have been reading up on how to cross hellebores and ready to give it a try. They are planted next to eachother and set set seeds last year. I used a paint brush and brushed both plants with eachothers pollen. There is also common Red Hellebores and also white ,purple speckled H. hydrids close by, so they could be anything. I know this is half-hazzard of a method, but I noticed seedlings around the parent plants coming up and look forword to seeing the mature leaves come out. This time around I want to do it the right way. Do I have something special here potentially? And what should I do now? The flowers are just starting to open on both of them. Also the other H.hyrids colors are starting to flower. If you could help me, that would be great. I have pictures of both plants from last year if you want to take a look. Thanks Jake P.
(Washington State, USA)- Zone 7


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Jake,
Don't apologise for long postings, I'm frequently guilty of doing the same thing. First of all, I think that it's worth pointing out that the correct name for H.orientalis hybrids is in fact H.x hybridus. The reason for this (without droning on about it) is that there is a true species called H.orientalis and that whilst it is true that H.orientalis did play a part in producing hybrid hellebores, many of todays hybrids contain little or no (true) H.orientalis blood. It's important to point the above out so that there is no confusion.

You ask if you have something special. Well, that depends on whats causing the variegation because it could be just a virus or a deficiency of some kind. You say that one of them is not so vigorous. I would be cautious about using that for breeding then. Good parents almost always produce good offspring, don't use anything sub-standard. Breeders are currently going mad for dark foliage on hellebores, although it's only dark whilst young. I'm sure that someone somewhere is trying for variegation.

I'm curious to know what your aim is. Perhaps you prefer the less vigorous plant; then you could pollinate one of this plant's flowers with pollen from the more vigorous plant, by doing this you might get stronger offspring. I'd be happy to throw some suggestions your way, I just need some more info. Can you email me the pics?

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim,
I read about the difference of H. orientalis and H. hydridus right after I e-mailed you. Thanks for pointing it out, as I can see how that would be a problem when breeding.
My main goal in breeding them is to produce more of the same plants, to build stock, but also to maybe bring out more distinct variegations on the leaves. Also I would like to get differnet flower colors, other than deep purple, on the variegated plants.
I figure the best thing is to select deep purple standard H.hydridus and cross with the two different variegated plants and basically focus on superior leaf form before I introduce other color stains into the mix. Does this sound right? Or would it work to try to attain better variegation and color variety at the same time? I can see where this can be the cause of the high prices, due to the high investment of time. But that is fine either way. I'm 24 and have the time. I really like the variegated with the white and pink swirls, but agree it is a bad idea to use a plant as a parent that is already week. I will probably try anyhow and hopefully improve its vigor. Thanks for the help.
I will send the pics to your e-mail. Thanks Jake P.


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Jake,
Nice to know another 'youngster' is out there!! I'm omly a few years ahead of you (27). I saw the variegation, I'm wondering if it only shows when the foliage is young then disappears as it ages. I think you could work on both improving flower colour and foliage at the same time.

If you have a plant with purple flowers that are superior to those on the plant with the variegated leaves, you could try crossing these for a darker colour. I would do the cross both ways (if you have enough flowers to this).
If you have spotted or veined flowers then you have an even greater choice of what you can do. It's very difficult to say what will come of the crosses that you make because even plants grown from seed from 'selfed' flowers can show variation.

If you're serious about it, it can halp to make notes and keep records as you go. At least if you then get an exceptional plant, you'll know what you crossed with what to get it!!

You say that you want to build up stocks of the plants that you already have and the easiest way to do this is to pollinate the flowers with their own pollen. Don't do this with too many subsequent generations though as it can weaken the strain. If you like the pink/white variegation, perhaps you could work on making this form more vigorous. By the way, I like the colour of the flower in the photo, good size too!!

The reason I think that you can work on both different flower colour and foliage is that unless you cross dark purple with dark purple, you are going to get different colours anyway, you may as well just go with it. Also, don't believe too much of what is written by many of the so-called 'hellebore breeders'. They would have you think that their plants have been produced by years of meticulous breeding. OK, so thay do cross their plants but all they do then is select the best seedlings and then use these as stock plants. The process isn't breeding, it's selection.

Can you let me know if the variegation is still on the leaves when mature?

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim,
The pink and white swirled holds into maturity, with no change. The lime variegation is more pronounced during the first couple months and then fades only a little. This is the reason that I think these plants are nice. Their ability to hold the leaf color into maturity. I have some dark purple H.hydridus that has purply-red young folaige while it blooms and then bronzes and fades to dark green as the leaves age. Also have some pre-anemone purple flowering type with bright yellow center that came out of a breeding program. So I will try a little of everything. The lime-green variegated plant has about 40 flowers on it right now. So I have plenty to play around with. I will difinitely keep records of all crosses. Thanks Jake P.


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Jake,
It's interesting to know that the variegation holds into maturity. Variegation is a notoriously unstable character so I think you might have trouble breeding it into other hellebores, no harm in trying though.

It's quite common for dark flowered hybrids to have dark young foliage. I have one like yours, except that the foliage fades to a bright green as it ages. Many people believe that dark foliage is confined to dark flowered hellebores. I can say for sure that this isn't the case as I have a H.viridis subsp.viridis (green flowers) that has exceptionally dark young foliage.

I'm sorry that I couldn't give you any useful or definite answers to anything, it's a difficult subject to talk about without actually seeing the plants as crosses between hellebores can throw up almost any colour combination. Many of the finest hybrid hellebores came about purely by chance. The person that produced it will say that they bred for it, easy to say AFTER you've got the plant!!

You say that you will try a little of everything, I think thats a good idea, you'll maximise your chances of getting something special. Please keep in touch and let me know how you get on.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim, Thanks for the help. I will keep you posted on my progress. Later Jake


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

I had another beginner question. I have about 15 plants of H.hybridus and all of them have 5 flower sepals, except one purple H.hybridus I have which has six sepals. Is this normal? Another question is what book/s would you suggest for learning more about Hellebores. I see a few that are basic, but is there any that are more indepth?
Thanks Jake P.


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Jake,
It's not all that unusual for six sepals to appear, although five is 'normal'(if such a word can be applied to hellebores!!)

As for a book, the only one in print at the moment is 'The Gardener's Guide to Growing Hellebores' written by Graham Rice and Elizabeth Strangman. It's published by Timber Press, Oregon. Personally, I don't think it's a great book and if you have it, the more you learn about hellebores through personal experience you see why I don't rate it that highly. It IS better than nothing though.

There is something else that I recommend though. If you are serious about hellebores, you must have it, for it's a literary masterpiece. Your knowledge of hellebores will increase 100-fold. It's a forty page booklet simply called 'Hellebore Notes' written by Will McLewin who runs a hellebore research nursery here in the UK called Phedar Nursery. It will cost you five dollars.
Will's address is:
Phedar Nursery,
42 Bunkers Hill,
Romiley,
Stockport,
SK6 3DS,
United Kingdom.

His telephone no. is (0044) (0)161 430 3772

He is in Slovenia at the moment and gets back on Friday. It's worth asking for a copy of his seed list too. You don't have to phone him if you want his 'Hellebore Notes' and seed list, just send him the five dollars and he will send whatever you've asked for as soon as he can.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Jake,
I got the price of the Hellebore Notes wrong. A copy will cost SEVEN dollars, not five. (still a bargain).

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Thanks Tim, I will get a hold of him. I am serious about this. The Graham Rice book gave me that impression that it was basic. I probably pick it up anyhow. Add to the garden library. Thanks again, Jake P.


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Jake,
another book available is Helen Ballard, The Hellebore Oueen. Got from Jelito www.jelitto.com for 32,50 euros plus shipping.
ALWAYS GARDENING,
brucenh


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Barry Glick in West Virgina is a big hellebore breeder. Bet he could answer all of your questions.

Page seems to be down at the moment but I'm sure it will right back up. Think they have their own server judging from some of the error messages I get

Here is a link that might be useful: Sun Farm


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

I realise that I may suffer a huge backlash from my next comments but nevermind I'll say them anyway. Barry Glick may be a big hellebore breeder (by the way, nobody 'breeds' hellebores, they just select constantly for better qualities) but his emphasis is on quantity, not quality. I've seen pictures of many of his so-called stunning hybrids and to be honest, they are mostly mediocre. Don't get me wrong, SOME are good.

There is only one place worth getting hellebore seed from; see my earlier postings.

Suenh, this isn't an attack on you or Barry Glick, It's just that I probably have a better insight on hellebores (for reasons not worth going into here) and of some of the people that call themselves 'experts', that's all. What most of them think they know and what they actually know are very different!!

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Of course people 'breed' hellebores . I suppose you'll be saying next that Blackmore & Langdons do not breed begonia either!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Richard,
No, I won't be saying that Blackmore and Langdons do not breed begonias as I know nothing about begonias and nor do I want to. The subject matter is Hellebores, a plant that I DO know something about and anyway, begonias cannot be compared to hellebores in any sensible conversation.

I suggest you buy yourself a copy of Will McLewin's Hellebore Notes. Perhaps then you will understand what I mean when I say that growers do not 'breed' hellebores.

Do you really think that dark nectaries are bred for? Of course they aren't!! This feature crops up occasionally as an oddity. Ok, so then the growers try to incorporate this feature into other hellebores but this is hardly breeding, not in the botanical sense, anyway. As I said previously, it's a process of constant selection, not breeding. When a nursery grows a fantastic hybrid, they'll tell you that they bred for it's features when usually it cropped as a seedling from a very ordinary plant. This is how some of the best hybrids I've ever seen came about.

Buy yourself a copy of those notes Richard, you might just, no, you WILL learn something.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Well, I consider myself a hellebore breeder !! I don't use ordinary plants as my parent 'stock', I've got extremely high quality hellebores which I use for line breeding - I set out for certain qualities, assess each parent beforehand and introduce species blood when and if I see fit. You are talking about oddities which may crop-up when hybridising (nectary colour)- I have specific aims when breeding and am not particularly interested in the odd 'rogue' find... I keep detailed records of all my crosses, and repeat the best.

Try 'Plant breeding for gardeners, by F.R.McQuown. Cambridge

regards

Richard

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Even when assessing the parents and setting out for certain qualities, you are still going to end up with a highly variable group of seedlings. This is unavoidable due to the mixed parentage of hybrids and also the high degree of variability present in many of the acaulescent species. It's highly likely that many plants which show different characteristics to what you you were aiming for will be better than the ones that do!!

Oddities don't just crop up when hybridising; take double torquatus and double dumetorum, both found in the wild. You can add dark foliage and dark nectaries to that list too. You say that you're not interested in the odd 'rogue' find.
That's bizarre!! As I said previously, some of the best hybrids I've ever seen have been 'rogues'!!

I agree that it's prudent to keep records, although in my experience I've found that repeating a cross between the same parents year after year can produce different looking plants every time. Obviously this is due to the mixed parentage.

The ONLY way to propagate a hellebore and be sure that the qualities will be passed on is by division, simple as that.
Trying to create seed strains is pointless too, you'd be forever weeding non-conformists out, not to mention that they are notoriously unstable. Put bluntly, seed strains are worthless. Many nurseries claim to have created their own seed strain. If their plant was in amongst nine others from different nurseries, there is no way that they could pick their own plant out, it wouldn't look any different!! They just see it as justification for the artificially high prices that they charge.
Anyway the seed strain argument is a whole different can of worms.....

This is what Will McLewin says about 'breeding' in his catalogue: 'For hybrids we grow plants from seed of our best specimens and select for improved or unusual characteristics; unlike others doing exactly the same thing we do not, pretentiously, call this 'breeding'.'
Well, thats a view that makes total sense to me and one that I agree with completely. I make no apologies for mentioning Will McLewin as much as I do as I believe that he knows more about hellebores that anybody else in the world. A dramatic statement I know, but true nonetheless.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

At the end of the day, if you enjoy 'hybridising' as you say, or 'breeding' as others do, just do it !! Lifes to short !!. The bees are out humming around my plants, so I'm off to do some more plant breeding.

Will McLewin - I had some of his seed/plant lists a few years back - he may be big in hellebores, but he seems to have a very strange attitude which came over in his writing, like he was doing you a favour selling them to you. I stay clear away.....

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

I agree with your first paragraph but not with your second.
I know Will quite well (he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met) and don't think he has a strange attitude at all. He is quite simply a genius and this comes across in his writing which is always clear, straight to the point and a pleasure to read. He doesn't beat around the bush like so many people do, perhaps it is this quality that some people don't like; what a shame, perhaps the old saying' the truth hurts' is applicable here!!

He doesn't make out that he's doing you a favour by selling his plants to you, he's just pointing out that his plants are better than anybody elses and as an owner of dozens of his plants and hundreds of seedlings grown from his seed, I can confirm that this view is correct!! It's a shame that you stay clear away as you put it; you're cutting your nose off to spite your face.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim - I just like winding people up ! Enjoy your hellebores !!

Most of mine seem to have stopped giving any more new buds - there are plenty of seed pods forming - not really much work with the brush and (hopefully!) some good plants in a few years time...

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

A comment on the comments on Barry Glick's helleborus. The fact is that his helleborus are outstanding for the US. His happens to be the only nursery in the US I have found that sells asexually propogated helleborus. All the rest are seed strains. Double helleborus -- which you so soundly deride -- are still little more than a myth in the US. Why no US company has thought to go to the UK, buy up some of the best clones, and introduce them to the US, I don't know, but the average American gardener still has to only dream of named clones of helleborus being widely avaliable. Hopefully they will before too long -- helleborus are gaining popularity over here.
Joseph.


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Jcoum,
If an American nursery were to come to the UK to buy clones, they would probably go home empty handed. Pretty much all of the named clones are extinct now (at least in a commercial sense anyway). Most of them were never widely available anyway; as I'm sure you're aware, the only way to propagate these plants is by division which isn't commercially viable when you are starting with only one or two named plants.

If you have a copy of 'The Gardener's Guide To Growing Hellebores' by Graham Rice and Elizabeth Strangman, you'll see pages and pages of descriptions of named clones (this is despite the fact that both the authors warn against naming hybrid hellebores!!). Anyway, you'd do well to find any of these plants for sale in a nursery. Sometimes you see some of the well known ones for sale such as 'Pluto' and 'Sirius', but are these really divisions of the original? Almost certainly not.

Basically, my point is that we in the UK are pretty much in the same boat as you guys in the US. Plenty of descriptions of named clones, but no plants to go with them!!

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hello Tim and Richard,
Been following this post,great morning wake up,realy like the breeding,hybridzing or should it be crossing or how bout throw the dice and select.I'VE been trying to get people to pollenate Hellebores,I fear that they don't understand how complex these (STRAINS) are.Untill one starts sprouting and growing open pollenated plants and see how wide and variable hybrid Hellebores are and then read about how easy they cross(hybridize, breed) in the wild, one conclusion might be ,what a mess,but what a hybridizers dream.An alpine plant,thats hybridise itself to the point that you can'T depend on true garden species from garden seed.If more gardners controlled the pollenation and kept track of thier cross, I beleave, Hellebores would be more predictable. There is so much mystery in this plant.Hellebores are so easy to grow,the seed simple to sprout,they do multiply slow but are so long lived.
My Hellebores have just emerged,no pollen yet.I have grown hundreds of Barry Glicks hybrid seedlings and have selelected the best plants.Trying to narrow this down to the best in each color range.It is my understanding that Hellebores enjoy out breeding,that one should be careful not to line breed,that it is best not to inbreed too far. Is this true.Oh Tim,if the exspression, breed, bothers you, please delete and insert cross,,please.
ALWAYS GARDENING
Bruce


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hello Bruce,
You've raised an interesting point about raising species hellebores from garden seed. I see on one of the other forums that a request for a hellebore forum has been put in and that enthusiasts might trade seed. With this in mind, it may be helpful to point out to these people that any seed saved from such plants should be labelled as (for example) 'hybrid from H.torquatus' and so on, rather than use just the species name. Apart from the fact that the seed almost definitely won't be pure, there is always the chance that the plant that they think is torquatus is in fact a hybrid!! I grow all of the species and don't let any of them set seed because of the uncertainty it would bring in keeping it.

Torquatus (and some of the other species) is such a variable plant anyway that you would never know what you had unless you knew that the plant was coll. from the wild or was grown from wild coll. seed. I'm going to Croatia soon (to study hellebores) and I plan to cross over into Bosnia. This is where torquatus grows, but I'm told that as you move back towards Croatia, torquatus blends seamlessly into multifidus multifidus. Many of the plants are intermediate between the two species-should be interesting (not to mention infuriating).

I'm not convinced that hellebores would be more predictable if records were kept of crosses. Sure, it does help but the problem is that the two parents used to create a hybrid will be of mixed (and complicated) parentage, so plants are always going to show variation that goes back many generations. As I've said, even species show variation, so of them so much that the plants can APPEAR to be influenced by another species. I have some plants that were collected in Hungary that are intermediate between odorus and dumetorum; the colony is near an odorus colony but a long way from any dumetorum-they are quite bizarre!

I guess if you were going for a pure colour it may make things easier. If you wanted a good yellow you could use odorus. Leaf pattern is hugely variable but flower colour isn't (in hellebore terms!!), it tends to vary between green, greeny yellow through to yellow. Obviously you'd start with two fairly good plants, cross them, then cross the two best offspring and so on. Here you have the start of a so-called 'strain'. I don't rate strains much because you still have a huge amount of variability; so many plants have to be rogued out, it hardly seems worth the bother. I'm more interested in species anyway, so I don't bother!!
This leads me neatly into answering your question; yes, if you keep crossing plants that have been created by one original cross with each other, you could eventually end up with weak plants. It's good to bring in new blood every so often.

Best Wishes,
Tim

p.s. Am jealous that you are about to start enjoying your hellebores. My hellebores are past their best now, seed pods are swelling nicely though, the weather has been strangely mild so far).


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim,
So kind of you to respond to my post, I have alot to learn about Helleborus. I agree with you that Hellebores should be cloned, the problem is to come up with worthy plants to divide.I live in a rural area, gardened for many years, and grown not to trust mail order firms. I prefer to grow my own, select clones, and share plants, Imfo, you know, the old garden method. Plants should not be rushed, three years to flower NOT to long a wait, ten years NOT to long to have clones to share. Because of this attitude, the Hellebores that I have to work with is from Barry Glick. Barry has interest in certain plants I have, so we trade.
I would like to improve color and hardyness as well as having plants that divide and multiply easily. Barrys Hellebores emerge too early, another ten days would be best for my climate. As you mention seed grown plants have a huge variation both in flower and growth.
Is this variation soley do to crossing or does the species variation play a role in this?

Is the species variation due to overlaps in habitat with Hellebores being protogynous or is the species itself unstable and in evolution change?

Kindly Yours,
Bruce


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Bruce,
I prefer to grow my own too. As you say, you can pick and choose which plants to keep and apart from that it's much more satisfying to grow your own.

In answer to your first question, it's a bit of both I think. When hybrids were first created, I imagine that the colour range was limited, but as different species were introduced, the range grew larger, especially when hugely variable species such as torquatus, atrorubens and croaticus were introduced. Now, several decades down the line I imagine that the variation of hybrid hellebores is due to the plants having the genes of several different species, they are in effect mongrels!! As I said, a yellow hybrid SHOULD only produce yellow or yellow/green offspring as a species such as odorus and/or perhaps cyclophyllus would have been used to create it. Obviously if the plant is around other hellebores almost anything could crop up.
To summarise, I think that the variation we see in hybrid hellebores was originally started by the different, variable species being used to create them but today it is due to hybrids being crossed with hybrids; the boundaries are always being pushed and new colours or features are cropping up all the time. Basically, it's difficult to tell what species' genes are present in a hybrid unless it has for example, purple flowers (mostly torquatus) or yellow flowers (mostly odorus).

To (try) to answer your second question, I don't think the species are unstable. The problem is that there are very few easy, comforting answers to questions about species hellebores and this is probably something that we have to live with. Sometimes certain species do overlap in distribution and colonies can be found that contain mixed plants. For example, I have some plants that are labelled as H.orientalis/abchasicus intermediates. They were collected from a site in Abchazia, Georgia and the colony consisted of plants that looked like H.orientalis subsp. orientalis and some which looked like H.orientalis subsp.abchasicus and many plants in between. At the moment it is more helpful to refer to these plants as intermediates rather than hybrids as it's not known if they are actually hybrids. If they are hybrids, then they are TRUE orientalis hybrids!! Not like the plants which people still wrongly call orientalis hybrids which should be called H.x hybridus.

As I mentioned in a previous post, some species don't seem to overlap as such, they just blend into each other. In the Velebit in Croatia you have H.multifidus subsp.multifidus. As you move east some of these plants have the green flower that they should have but with a purple rim. Then as you move into Bosnia you will find H.torquatus. Just to add to the problems, plants of torquatus with totally green flowers occur in amongst 'normal' (I use that term loosely!) torquatus. Will McLewin finds these plants difficult to distinguish from H.multifidus subsp.multifidus but has to call them H.torquatus as calling them H.multifidus subsp.multifidus and the plants with purple flowers H.torquatus would be even worse; it would be total madness to walk into such a colony and say this plant is so and so and that plant is a different species and so on and so on.

And then you have the plants that are intermediate in that they seem to be influenced by another species but the species in question isn't around!! H.odorus seems to be the culprit more often than not. For example, there are atrorubens/odorus intermediates, dumetorum/odorus intermediates and multifidus istriacus/odorus intermediates; there are probably others too. I have read that perhaps the intermediates could be regarded as the species (using dumetorum/odorus intermediate as an example) and that the two plants that we currently know as the species ( dumetorum and odorus) are just extreme examples of it. As it was rightly pointed out in the text, this would mean that we would have very few true species plants and lots of mixed ones and as a result of this it will probably never happen.

Basically (or not!!) species hellebores are very complicated and I'm amazed that more work isn't being done on them. Personally, I find them enthralling and will go abroad every year to try and make more sense of them - at least in my own head anyway! They may be complicated but this doesn't stop them from being on the whole, excellent garden plants.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim,
You have been most helpfull, Hellerbore hybridsing using Helleborus x.hybridus with its mixed genes,does not look very promising, unless one just wants to throw new genes in and take your chances on the resulting plants. I certainly understand why you would want to seek out pure spieces. I will be sprouting more spieces and growing more spieces myself.
The problem I have is my climate. Its very harsh and can go to one extreme to another extreme. This past season has been dry with very little snow cover with mild temps but we could of had no snow with 25 below 0 deg.F. Last year in March we had over 4 feet of snow, April we had record breaking heat of 95 deg.F with many days of high temps and then in May we had record drought of less then 3 inches of rain. Some weeks, any week, any month of the year we can accumulate over 10 inches of rain. Last frost date is June 1st and September 1st. The Helleborus X.hybridus does not standup as well as Helleborus orientalis ssp. orientalis. H. orientalis ssp. orientalis, emerging later, more deciduous, stronger growing and divides easily. What would one do if you wanted to have the hardiness of orientalis but with a more pure color range. Should one just collect and grow many H.orientalis spieces and select clones or try crossing with other more northern spieces?I have and enjoy a very nice cream clone of H. orientalis ssp. orientalis. What other spieces should I try in this climate?
Tim good luck in your quest for Helleborus torquatus and multifidus, hope when you return to hear of your adventure!

Bruce
p.s. Tim have to agree with you, one breeds cows, you hybridise or cross plants.


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Bruce,
I don't see any reason why you couldn't grow any of the acaulescent species (odorus, cyclophyllus, multifidus, dumetorum, viridis, (true)orientalis, atrorubens, torquatus, purpurascens and croaticus). All of these species are regarded as totally hardy although plants could be lost in adverse weather conditions, but this statement applies to ALL so-called hardy plants. Hot summers shouldn't be a problem once the plants are established, indeed it's thought that hot summers help produce more flowers.

It's important to remember that most of the acaulescent species come from the Balkans; the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Hungary, Romania etc. All of these countries have very hot summers and usually very cold winters. Plants can be found anywhere from sea level, up to quite a high altitude.

It's interesting that you mention the hardiness of true H.orientalis as it's this quality that made H.orientalis such an important player in the production of todays hybrids.

You could grow the different subspecies of H.orientalis but there are only three so you'd be limiting your colour range. H.orientalis subsp.orientalis usually has white or greenish/white flowers, H.orientalis subsp.abchasicus usually has pink flowers and H.orientalis subsp.guttatus has small spots on the inside of the flowers.

I suppose you could start with a H.orientalis subsp.orientalis with flowers of a good shape and cross it with any acaulescent species that takes your fancy. Of course I must point out that what you are doing is basically what people started doing many decades ago when they realised that flowers of many different colours could be produced by crossing the acaulescent species with each other.
Nothing wrong with this though, I sometimes wonder if people get carried away with crossing plants of H.x hybridus with each other and forget that crossing pure species with each other could produce some extremely fine plants. I think that this aspect of hellebore hybridising is underrated and neglected. I wish I had more time to spend doing it. Maybe next year...

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim - are there many species hellebores growing in England. Which ones might we see the the SW ?

regards

Richard

p.s if we don't breed plants, why are there Plant Breeders Rights


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
The only true native hellebore we have in the UK is H.viridis subsp.occidentalis. It's dotted around the UK but isn't considered all that common. I know of two colonies near me, one is about 18 miles away and the other is 25 miles away. I was in the colony furthest away only 4 weeks ago, I got some great photos. Not sure if there are any colonies down your way, you could probably find out by looking for records of the flora in your area, that's how I traced one of the colonies near me. H.foetidus does also occur in the wild here but only as a garden escape and isn't a true native. On the grass verge of the A1 at St.Neots, about 10 miles away from me is a solitary H.foetidus, when it's in flower it sticks out like a sore thumb.

With regards to Plant Breeders Rights; When I say that nobody breeds hellebores, I am talking only about hellebores, indeed I didn't mention any other plant genus/species. For me, the variation of H.x hybridus is the weak link of the argument. Aiming for particular qualities when crossing hybrid hellebores is a hit and miss affair. Some hellebore growers claim that their plants all have outward facing flowers or strong flower stalks etc.etc. All of these features have cropped up randomly in my own seedlings. Most, if not all of these kinds of features are difficult to stabilise to a point where the majority of plants are exhibiting the desired characteristics. Many of the plants will be 'normal'. Because of this, I agree with the people that call the whole process 'selection'. You have to remember that many things written about hellebores, apply only to hellebores as they are such an awkward plant!
Anyway, it's been a great year for them, hasn't it?

I'd be interested to know if you discover any colonies down your way. If you can't find anything on the web, the local library should be able to help. I used both; the web was very good as I found a website called 'The Flora of Cambridgeshire'. Perhaps something similar has been published for your county.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Tim, thanks for the info.

By the way 'Aiming for particular qualities when crossing hybrid hellebores is a hit and miss affair' - after seeing the Hilliers Nursery polytunnels bursting with their exceptional quality hybridus plants, I'm afraid I don't agree with your argument !.

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

They only let you see what they want you to see. They keep the best plants for themselves and pass the crap on to the garden centres. I've seen plants from Ashwood, Hillier, Harvington and also plants that supposedly derived from Helen Ballard stock in various garden centres and only a few of them were good plants, most have dull, muddy flowers.
Yet if you go direct to these growers, most of the plants are good - it's no coincidence!!

It's not only my opinion that aiming for particular qualities when crossing hellebores can be a hit and miss affair, it's a well known fact!! THE INHERENT VARIABILITY OF THE PARENT PLANTS, that is why. When you cross two hybrid hellebores, you never know quite what you will get. Why do think that hellebores with double flowers or dark nectaries are so expensive? It's because many of the plants grown from seed taken from these plants end up not having the desired (and usually unstable) feature.

Try to stabilise a feature such as outward facing flowers, to the point where the majority of the plants have the feature. If you succeed, you will be the first to do so.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Richard,
Have you sprouted and grown any offspring from the H.hybridus plants of either crossed or open pollenated and seen the results.

Tim,
Jelitto in 2001 started offering "Schmieman Strain Ladys Series", Jelitto claims this srtain is 80% or more true to color and offers six seperate colors. Have your doubts, me to. I purchased blue, red, and white. I've grown them thru the winter and they have thier first true leaves so I will let you know in 2 to 3 years.

Richard,
Do you think that if they have isolated seperate colors that I will be able to take this strain and do the same, I doubt it.

I think that your both right. Large companys will be able to produce certain genectic traits in very controled conditions, with very limited and short supply parents.But to repeat these results at home in your own garden will be impossible. Look at Primroses,Pansies,Garden Mums,Dalhias.Will these hellebore be good, hardy, garden plants or grown just for thier flower? Will we, are we sacrificing a hardy long lived perennial for a seed grown beding plant!

Tim and Richard your both,I think, are correct, trouble is we all loose, my aim in crossing is to produce a hardy plant, that stands up well to adverce weather, can be reproduced by division with good results and hasn't LOST the hellebore architecture, the erect plant with the horizontal look, that it has from its nodding flowers.

Kindly Always,
Bruce


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Bruce,
Yes, like you, I do have my doubts!! That's not to say that the plants that aren't the colour that they should be won't be good plants though. I'm sure some of them will be just fine. I'm most doubtful about the blue as a true blue hellebore has yet to be released. The trouble with producing such a colour is that the the 'flower' is actually a modified calyx and therefore the sepals that make this up, act differently to a normal flower. A hellebore flower may open dark purple, fade to blue for a few days a then fade even further and the nursery will still maintain that it has a blue flower!!!(even if only for a day or two). I've only ever seen one hellebore that had a flower that was close to a blue - it wasn't for sale!!

It raises an interesting point about seed strains. For every 10 plants that a nursery raises from a seed strain and that match their criteria, there are a good number of plants from the same batch of seedlings that don't. They don't tell you this of course, so when you buy some of these seeds, say a packet of 20, 10 maybe OK and the other 10 don't look anything like they should do. They may be very good plants, but if you're buying seeds from a strain, you would want a better success rate than 50% - I would anyway.

Oh yes, I agree that hellebores look best with nodding flowers. Who wants outward facing ones? Nodding flowers make you interact with the plant by having to physically lift it to see into it. And that's what I like.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

My hellebores are 'podding' nicely at the moment !!, and a few questions arise !! my x Sternii has pods on it - would this produce seed or is the plant sterile ?. My argutifolius is also showing plenty of seed pods, but last year I never got around to harvesting the seed - it seemed to have the green pods present, and then because of time, I never saw the pods ripen - was this because I did not hand pollinate the flowers and hence seed set did not properly happen, or do they 'throw' their seed all of a sudden ?!.

With my Dumertorum 'Apple Green' plant, I plan to sow the seed and subsequently sell the offspring. I cannot find out if the particular plant has plant breeders rights', so aim to sell my seedlings/plants as a selected green strain , I presume there would be no problems doing this ?!!

many thanks

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hello Richard,
H.x sternii is fully fertile. H.argutifolius should set plenty of seed without hand pollination. They don't throw their seed suddenly but they do drop it quite suddenly. I always go for a walk around the garden before work to check on the seed pods and then do the same when I get home from work eight hours later. Pods that were full in the morning can quite often be empty by the time I get home!!

Concerning the H.dumetorum that you have, it's strange that the grower of it felt it neccessary to give it a cultivar name as dumetorum always has green flowers. The shade of green can vary but this doesn't warrant a cultivar name. Because of the variability of H.dumetorum I think it would be impossible for a grower to impose Plant breeder's Rights on it. I don't think it would be worth labelling your plants up as a selected green strain either as you may get a few strange looks from people that are familiar with the species. I'd label them up as simply H.dumetorum, I'm sure that they'd sell just as well. I like dumetorum and the other green flowered species, they're very underrated.
Good Luck with your Hellebores.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

excellent !thanks very much Tim !good job there's the internet as most of the books can't answer my'niggling' questions !. With argutifolius, I cannot remember ever seeing the pods with seed that looked ripe ( as per the hybridus that have the black fully ripened seed) - do you collect them in the green stage ?.

And another ! if my Sternii has been around Dumertorum might there a chance this has been cross-pollinated by the bees ( although I suppose that the plant has probably been self pollinated by wind transferred pollen!).

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

With H.argutifolius, H.x sternii and H.foetidus, rather than harvest the flowers or pods individually, I wait until I see a few empty pods (pods that have dropped their seed on the ground) and I then cut off at ground level the whole flower stem. I then place the whole thing upside down in a paper bag. Over the next few days the seed will carry on ripening and will gather in the bottom of the bag. It's quite important not to jump the gun by cutting the flower stem (and do take the whole stem, not just the flowers) too early, you must wait until you see some pods that have already split.

There is as good as no chance that your H.x sternii has crossed with your H.dumetorum. H.x sternii is caulescent and H.dumetorum is acaulescent and it is generally accepted that the caulescent and acaulescent species cannot be hybridised with each other.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Great, my argutifolius production line starts this year then!. Talking of which, I have a small argutifolius, which was given to me without a label, the leaves are light green with highly variagated cream, the stems have some reddish/brown colouring. The plant has a delicate look to it - is there a cultivar called 'Silver Lace' ?!!

The plant does not seem to get the black die-back that the pure species plants get also !

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
H.argutifolius 'silver lace' tends to be similar to normal H.argutifolius but with a silver wash or sheen on the surface of the leaves. Sounds to me that you may have another cultivar called 'pacific frost'.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Most of my hybridus are hooded now - I used squares of mosquito netting - shame the sunny weather has dissapeared ! as the sun would have aided ripening !.

I did not think that hellebores suffered from aphid attack, until I spotted some adults clustered around some seedheads !.

Going back to hand-pollination, the majority of my plants have set seed (seemingly!) well. However, my yellow shade hybridus has a majority of pods which have not set and have a withered appearance . Does the yellow factor have something to do with the plant being of a lesser standard than the other colours ?. Not sure if my wording is entirely right here, but after hand-pollination of the yellow, it was the only plant where the stamens didn't fall from the bloom and the prevailing botrytis caused a lot of the flowers to rot off entirely. What I'm trying to say is.. do yellows have a poorer constitution ?

thanks

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
My hellebores suffer terribly from aphid attack. The first thing that I usually notice is the honeydew on the leaves below. I've just got back from Croatia and found many of my plants covered. Although I found thousands of hellebores whilst in Croatia I didn't see one single plant with an aphid on it!!

You've raised an interesting point about hellebores with yellow flowers maybe being weak plants (or at least some of them anyway). I have owned several weak yellow flowered hellebores. I could be that a good, clear yellow has been a popular aim for people interested in such things and that plants and their offspring have been continually selfed to the point of self destruction, resulting in poor quality, inbred plants. I don't look for yellow H.x hybridus anymore, instead concentrating on finding good yellow forms of H.odorus.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Tim, Hi Richard,
I have never had an aphid on my hellebores (yet). I do have aphids on other plants. Someone suggested the cold winters.I have no idea why I do not have any.

I have one nice yellow hybrid, I did not pollenate by hand, but it has much less seed pods then the other x hybridus that are pollenated on their own. It seems to be a strong growing plant, but is only four years old. I have no botrytis on hellebore, but do on peony and other plants. Tim is botrytis evident in Croatia?

Well I hope the both of you have a good seed collection year, you probaly have finished collecting allready.

Kindly,
Bruce


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

I didn't see any hellebores in Croatia that had botrytis on them. The vast majority of the plants that I saw were very healthy. I finished harvesting my seed today.It's been a very good year with several thousand seeds coming from my plants. All that's left to do now is to tidy them up.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Now something really annoying has happened !!!. Whilst surveying my stock plants this afternoon, I found a hoard (25!!!!!!!!) of my hand-pollinated flowerheads (still in their protective net sleeves under some of my plant staging. It looks as if the local squirrels have been at work - small holes in the bags and all the seeds gone. I thought it might have been voles, but I do not think they would have hoarded their ill gotten gains !. I can only assume that the netting attracted them to the seeds as it looks a bit like the nut-feeder mesh. Has anyone else suffered this ? I am now facing a problem, as for next Spring I had planned to plant-out all my stock plants into the garden and collect the seed outside (after suffering some aphid attack/botrytis under glass).

Our only saving grace is that we have already collected and sown 2500+ hybridus seeds and they are protected from the squirrels!

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
We have voles, field mice, deer mice, chipmonks, red squirrels, grey squirrels and flying squirrels and it is always a race to see who collects the most seed. They all seem to enjoy hellebore seed.

Bruce


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

thanks Bruce !.

Tim - I'd be interested to know how you sow/keep your hellebore seed you collected recently and what sort of protection you give it/location/watering etc!!
many thanks

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
I hope you don't mind but I answered your questions in the hellebore forum as Bruce had created a thread regarding these issues. The thread is 'harvesting, storing, mailing and planting seeds'.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

I had an excellent time last week finding my first hellebores growing in the wild - foetidus growing @ La Tania in the French Alps.....amazing !!!!! - saw several groups of plants, approximately 20 individuals, but only a few large enough to have seed pods on them - I was surprised that they still had some seed left, the foliage was very fine and looked a darker green than those I have seen available in garden centres etc.

I am now after more foetidus plants this coming Spring to try and hybridise. Tim - when should I expect my first flowers from my new wild seed (I have just sown fresh) - would they flower in two years ?.

What I noted was that the foetidus plants that had set seed, seemed very yellow plants, almost as though they were going to set seed and die perhaps ?!.

After searching for the plants in the wild, spurred on by several handbooks, it was quite interesting seeing different plants in their very different habitats, a few metres to the left and right and the growing terrain changed completely and a whole array of different species flourished !!

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hello Richard,
I'm pleased that you found some hellebores growing in the wild. It's a great feeling isn't it?
It's a feeling that I don't think I'll ever get used to or tired of.

If you grow them well they could flower in two years after germination, although the seeds may take two years to germinate. It's probably more accurate to say that the seeds may germinate over a period of two years. I always find germination of H.foetidus erratic. It's frustrating because in a pot of ten seeds, five may germinate quickly and you know that you may have to wait quite a long time for the rest to germinate.

I don't tend to grow a lot foetidus anymore but when I do, I tend to sow a large amount of seeds, far more than I need to. Doing this allows me to prick out the 'first wave' and throw away the seeds that haven't germinated. If I sow a few hundred seeds this method provides me with more than enough plants.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

thanks Tim - erratic germination !!- what a shame, although the foliage of the wild plants is worth waiting for .

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

hellebores are showing in the garden centres already... 9CM plants with labels quoting 'orientalis' , 3.99 each !!!, parentage totally unknown, steer well clear !!!

Nothing to do with hybridisation, but I recently saw at Cleeve garden centre, Bristol examples of helleborus foetidus 'Wester Flisk' in about 10 litre + pots @ 30+ -seemed a bit overpriced !!!!!!!

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Tim - I don't suppose you have any divisions or plants of thibetanus you might be willing to sell at all ?!!. My other hellebore plants are starting to flower and I still haven't managed to obtain one a year after talking about them !!

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hello Richard,
I'll email you privately.

Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Thanks for the e-mail Tim - with your species plants grown out in the open - do you hand pollinate the specific species in order to obtain seed or do you just grow for the enjoyment of having them in your garden ?
(if the latter, have you ever collected any seed and come up with some surprising (natural) crosses ?!)

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Richard,
I grow a considerable number of species hellebores, most of which are in two or three litre rose pots at the moment. They will soon be moved to a small patch of land that I've recently acquired and will finally be planted out. I am fascinated with the complex problems that persist within the genus and all of my plants have been acquired or grown by myself with study and research in mind. None have been grown to sell or simply for the fun of it.

I tend not to hand pollinate my acaulescent species plants as I could never be sure that the resultant seed would be pure, especially with so many species growing so close together. I remove the flowers as they fade because many of the species are slow enough, without having to produce seed as well. I grow species hellebores only from wild collected seed of known provenance.

I have dabbled with crossing one species with another but haven't produced anything special to date. My heart isn't really in it and I find myself wanting to do more and more research on the acaulescent species.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hellebores are doing well at the moment - must admit that I am swaying away from the darker colours and am amazed by the beauty of some of the picotee buds now opening (boughton plants so far!). However, I have been very busy hand pollinating and am trying (hybridus) pink speckled with each other, blacks with black, purples with black,'Blue moon' with blacks, picotees with each other (hedging my bets on the outcome as I have no real idea what to expect),pink&whites with picotee amongst others.

Also experimenting with picotee hybridus pollen on a good example of dumertorum, Eric Smith Black (&purple) pollen on purpurascens, niger pollen on argutifolius. I am aiming also to try for foetidus x argutifolius just for the hell of it !! and am looking for some gold-leaved foetidus to cross with foetidus 'Wester Flisk'.

One of our first 3 year old hybridus has eventually!!! after about a month, opened it's first bud - I was not expecting much and hoped for a good colour overall even if the shape might be less than perfect. Well...it's white with a little green and the shape is, without being big-headed..marvellous - would my best bet be to self the plant (not usually desirable I know) to obtain seedlings quite like their parent ?!).

Unfortunately the seedling came from open-pollinated seed - if I had hand-pollinated to produce this plant, my aim would have been to cross it with one of it's sister seedlings but this is not an option!!.

Our foetidus seedlings originating from seed collected in La Tania in the French Alps have just had their first pricking-out session today (300ish) with approximately another 200+ to go !. I have tagged plants showing red stems to keep back for breeding purposes, though the majority are green. However the parent plants were fine in themselves with just green stems and fine-leaved foliage !

How are your plants/crosses doing ?!

regards

Richard


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hello Richard,
My hellebores are doing well. Hybrids are in full flower but more surprisingly so are most of the acaulescent species. H. torquatus wouldn't normally flower here for another three or four weeks. Unfortunately I lost some flower stalks on species plants due to the excessive wet period we had a few weeks ago that was followed by several hard frosts but the plants are still alive and kicking.

I've done a few crosses this year but I don't really have much enthusiasm for this and it's just something to do on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I will always grow hybrid hellebores in considerable numbers but my time will be mainly devoted to the species. I have large numbers of HxH to prick out and I never look forward to this task. Species seed has only just started to germinate in any numbers and will probably carry on doing so for another six weeks or so.
I've also been dividing hybrid plants; another task that always seems to take longer than I intended it to.

Regarding your plant with the white flower; yes, you could self pollinate it, pick the best two seedlings and then cross them with each other. Perhaps you might be able to eliminate the green.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hi Tim - saw viridis for the first time today - but what horrible blackspot - does it always suffer from this ? it put me off buying some specimen!.
anyway! to the point !!!, is it possible to cross helleborus x. Sternii with any other hellebore would you know ?.


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Hello Richard,
Was the plant labelled up as just H. viridis?
The reason I ask is because the plant commonly known as H. viridis subsp. occidentalis (our native) is now officially known as H. occidentalis and H. viridis subsp. viridis is now classified as simply H. viridis. The separation was long overdue as the two plants are very different.

I know of a colony of H. occidentalis not too far away from where I live and none of the plants have blackspot. In fact all of the plants are very healthy and the colony seems to be thriving.

H.x sternii can be crossed with niger to produce x ericsmithii. It can be crossed with either of it's parents too (argutifolius and lividus). If you are looking to produce x ericsmithii I would use niger as the seed parent. The size of the flower makes it easier to emasculate. I haven't done this cross but I did cross lividus with niger in March 2001 and it was very successful. I now have several H.x ballardiae in flower as a result.

Best Wishes,
Tim


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RE: Hellebore Breeding

Has anyone tried the cross of argutifolius x foetidus that is supposed to be a waste of time ?


Richard


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