Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Hellebore orientalis 'red hybrid'

As advertised

I've been after a pink hellebore for a while. It's been a furtive kind of lust, pretending to Le Photographe that I'm not going to buy anything else until I've finished the garden design course that I'm starting this week. In the meantime, I've been loitering around garden centres, fingering hellebore leaves while no-one was looking or browsing on-line nurseries alone late at night and then deleting the browsing history to hide my plant addiction from those who care about me.

It was thus that my ongoing love-hate relationship with the 'boutique' N1 Garden Centre continued when I told Le Photographe last week that I was just popping out for some potting compost. As the helpful assistant carried my compost to the till, a couple of pink hellebores just, well, slipped into a basket I happened to have picked up on the way in.  (Why can I never do as the books tell me to do and always end up buying pairs of plants instead of three or five.)

Now the N1 Garden Centre is in quite an affluent area and most of the customers these days look like they are record producers or in PR. I didn't want to look like someone from Clapton with no cash so I said to myself, "I'd better buy them then."

Our relationship took one of its rocky turns at the till when I pointed out that the label advertised that the hellebore was pink as seen in the plant label above.

What perturbed me was this flower on one of the plants:

I questioned this to the assistant who didn't know about hellebores. Someone else was called who also didn't know. Now I do not know much about hellebores either but I mumbled something about thinking that they don't always come true or maybe can have different shades of flowers on the plant. Assistant number 2 consulted one plant encyclopedia and then another before reading out loud, "flowers darken with age."  She snapped the encyclopedia shut, knowing it was victory for them. 

Now this seemed implausible to me but I felt the pressure of both lack of knowledge and the queue of people building up behind me anxious to get back to their recording studios or wherever. My finger had already been poised over the card machine for 10 minutes by now ready to punch my number in so it was already the point of no return.  I thanked the assistants for all their help looking this up and said I felt reassured because I really wanted a pink one and so if was going to go pink, that was good.

Assistant number 1 then carried my compost to my car for me.  My car has been with me since 1998, my Toyota Starlet which has never let me down but, let's face it, has seen better days.  The assistant deposited my compost into my rust-caked boot and then he turned and looked at me very deliberately as if he wanted to make sure he could recognise me in a police line-up.  I can hardly blame him amongst all those BMWs and four by fours.

The trusty Starlet.
Over the course of the week, the single flower has blossomed and become pure white apart from a  greenish tinge.  Hackney has a drug problem and perhaps it would seem pink to anyone after some hallucinogens but it is definitely white to me.

Helleborus orientalis 'red hybrid' in white

 Hellebore experts, please advise!