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!


  1. I hate shops that make you feel as if they are doing you a favour just by allowing you to buy their stuff, and this sounds like one of those. And that is white. Not pink. I'm not expert, and I have seen hellebore flower colour deepen with age, but go pink from white? Surely that would be the kind of alchemy that you would shout from the rooftops as a feature, or at least mention on the plant label? I'd take it back. Is the other one pink?

  2. Hi Janet, foolishly I have planted them now (still waiting for flowers on no.2) and as it was pretty obviously white in the shop perhaps it is a lesson in assertiveness for me or updating my glasses prescription :-). This particular garden centre is the kind where all the plants are artfully arranged around little stone busts with opera trilling away in the background...I keep going back there from time to time knowing it is really bad for me! This isn't my first run in with them, in fact that reminds me to label that particular post. On the plus side, the plants I've bought there have always been in rude health I guess...I am living and learning.

  3. Claire, Really, why would anyone want to haul compost in a fancy car? The whole point of having an old trusty, rusty car is that you can treat it like a pickup truck (even if it was born a subcompact). I speak from experience here :-). I have a feeling that the tag photo of your hellebore has been color enhanced more than just a little bit. -Jean

    1. You are so right Jean, why would a passionate gardener bother with a nice car when it is always full of compost, plants and remnants of bygone gardening projects being taken to the tip?

  4. I'm no hellebore expert but I'd say someone's been swopping the labels over. Still, pretty good reason to buy another one, thereby making up the numbers to a design-approved grouping. Perhaps when you next pop out for compost? My car is a tiny aging Fiat and I love it, especially that the back seat folds flat so I can get lots of compost and plants in there. It's the perfect car for me!

  5. For some reason I hadn't thought of buying another one, how unlike me! I've planted each of them in a mixed display in two large pots that I bought so it would be quite an outlay to do a third. I'm off work from tomorrow (starting the garden design course), so you've got me thinking though...

    My friend at university used to drive us everywhere in an ancient red Fiat. I used to call it a coke can on wheels but I loved it.

  6. Hi Claire, I'm not sure what white flowers are supposed to darken to. Abandoning all shame I'd march back with photographic evidence and blag another round of free plants - perhaps referring to the horse meat scandal with regards to them mislabelling things - that might ruffle them up a bit. As for practical cars vs Chelsea tractors, don't get me started!

  7. Hi Sunil, you know what, you and Janet are right. I've planted both of them now but I'm going to e-mail them the photos. Not sure whether or not I still have the receipt but I don't think that matters for mis sold goods, anyway, you never know what still might be lurking in the tardis of my handbag :-).

  8. I know you are disappointed with the hellebore being white but the white ones really sing out on a dull day and you can always buy another pink one if you get desperate.

  9. Thanks Elaine. You are right, it does look nice and delicate. Everything took a bit of a battering overnight anyway in the high winds no matter what colour it was!

  10. Er, perhaps the flowers darken with age after they die and fall off the plant? ;-)

    Sorry you got snookered...

    But I'd have fallen for that tag too. The "Red Hybrid" hellebore photo looks great!!

  11. No flowers at all on one of them - boo hoo!

  12. Hi Claire, have you stopped writing completely? How is your garden doing? It's been a weird winter and spring, but now it is finally taking off :-)
    Have a nice Bank Holiday, supposed to be nice on Monday!

  13. Hi Helene, thanks for remembering me! I have kind of been writing blog posts on and off but somehow too busy to see them through to completion. I also took a garden design course for a few weeks which had some homework and so that took up a bit of time. I struggle a bit with blogger on my old laptop to be honest and usually use an ipad for everything which doesn't work well with blogger so that doesn't help.

    Yes, spring has been weird. I took a week off in March to do everything but it was too cold, then I fell into a mass panic in April when there seemed to be a gap of a week to do all the jobs. Got back from my parents today and found everything in the garden coming along so quickly, seems strong on foliage right now but a few flower gaps to deal with. Hope you are well. I will try and write up my nursery visit now you've spurred me on!