Plant Portraits: Helleborus x hybridus ‘Bosvigo Doubles’

Since returning from Cornwall on Monday it has done nothing but rain. In the short hours between work and sleep I have been revisiting the photographs of my new hellebores. Meanwhile they’ve had to battle the elements on the other side of the glass, waiting for an evening fine and light enough for me to plant them. I fully expect the flower show will be over by the time conditions are right to complete the job.

All four of my purchases from Wendy Perry’s garden were from the Helleborus x hybridus ‘Bosvigo Doubles’ strain. Each one is beautiful, sumptuous, almost exotic; looks so unexpected in a flower that appears early in the year. They may only be increased by division, so will remain unique to our London garden for years to come. Some hellebore breeders name their hybrids in order to offer them commercially. Mine will never be exchanged for money, but I’ve had fun choosing pet names for them. First, let me introduce you to ‘Blackberry Fool’.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Bosvigo Doubles' (Blackberry Fool), Feb 2014

What I love about this flower is the colour, which looks exactly like ripe, fragrant blackberries stirred into whipped cream. The petals curve protectively around the central boss of stamens, creating a ruffled, peony-like shape.  Double flowers are often criticised for being inaccessible to bees, but this one seems to have struck a good balance between petals and pollen. I would plant it with one of Bosvigo’s signature spring bulbs, Crocus tomassinanus ‘Roseus’ or in the midst of a carpet of native primroses for delicious contrast.

Next up is ‘Eton Mess’ (below and top) with flowers that remind me of crisp meringues speckled with raspberry juice. Pretty enough for a winter wedding bouquet, just a few flowers mixed with daphne, Christmas box and Baccara roses would look and smell stunning. I am not certain how old my plant is (perhaps three years?) but this seedling already appears to be a prolific bloomer.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Bosvigo Doubles' (Eton Mess), Feb 2014

‘Strawberry Parfait’ continues the high calorie theme which, if you’ve not guessed yet, is ‘creamy desserts’. The flower shape is similar to ‘Blackberry Fool’ but the smudgy venation is gorgeously girly. ‘Strawberry Parfait’ would make a good companion for pink and white camellias or daffodils such as Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’, a reliably early flowerer.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Bosvigo Doubles' (Strawberry Parfait), Feb 2014

Last but not least is ‘Lemon Posset’, with irregularly ruffled petals as pretty as a Schiaparelli evening gown. Lemon Posset’s clear, acid-yellow flowers hovering gently above sky blue muscari or scilla would conjure the very essence of spring.

It will be a good year or two before I decide on a favourite – like any good dessert one needs to try a few mouthfuls before passing judgement. I still find it hard to comprehend that there can be so much variety within this strain; a credit to Wendy Perry and her partnership with Mother Nature. Vigour and stature will eventually determine which wins my affections, although I am confident all will remain special. Do you have a favourite?  If so, let me know…..

Helleborus x hybridus 'Bosvigo Doubles' (Lemon Posset), Feb 2014