All the rage among florists these days, cut hellebores are now available year-round and in a mind-boggling array of colors and bloom types.
care and handling
immediate attention Begin processing Helleboruses immediately upon arrival in your store; these cut flowers are easily water stressed and wilt prone, especially when cut at a young stage (see “Buying Tip”). Immediate and constant hydration is imperative.
Carefully remove the flower bunches from the shipping boxes, and remove any bindings and sleeves. Be cautious to avoid damaging any open blossoms.
If you cannot attend to these flowers immediately upon their arrival, open the shipping boxes, and place them into a floral cooler until you can begin processing the flowers.
hydration and nutrition Cut at least 1 inch from the bottoms of the stems with a sharp knife or pruner; immediately dip or place the stem ends into a hydration solution; then place the flowers into a clean container partially filled with properly proportioned flower-food solution made with cold water.
Note: Some sources suggest dipping Helleborus stems into hot water for a few seconds immediately after cutting, then placing them into flower-food solution. This procedure has not been scientifically validated, and hot water can damage stem tissue, so test the results of this technique in your shop before making it a common practice.
refrigeration Immediately after processing the flowers, place them into a floral cooler at 34
F to 36 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before selling or arranging.
With proper care from farm to florist, Helleboruses should provide an average of five to eight days of vase life at the consumer level. If the flowers are harvested before their seed pods form, the vase life will be shorter (three days); if they are harvested with seed pods, some varieties can last as long as two weeks. The more developed the seed pods, the sturdier the cut flowers will be and the longer they will last.
Purchase Helleboruses that have some blooms at least halfway open and are showing some seed pods; flowers with seed pods will last longer than those without. In addition, if these flowers are cut prematurely (too tight), they can have difficulty rehydrating after shipping.
As cut flowers, Helleboruses are not currently grown by a large number of flower farmers or in substantial quantities — although those numbers are increasing. Despite that, these flowers should be available year-round, depending on variety and grower.
colors and bloom types
Cut Helleboruses are available in a rainbow of muted colors ranging from ivory and chartreuse, to peach and mauve, to eggplant, wine and crimson — and even “black.” Also prevalent are bicolor, speckled and “brush marked” colorations.
Bloom types include simple singles and frilly doubles, and petals can be rounded or pointed (resembling stars).
family matters Helleboruses are members of the Ranunculaceae (crowfoot or buttercup) family, are they are closely related to Aconitum (monkshood), Anemone (windflower), Aquilegia (columbine), Clematis (virgin’s bower), Consolida (larkspur), Delphinium, Nigella (fennel flower) and Ranunculus (buttercup).
what’s in a name The scientific name “Helleborus” derives from the Greek helléboros, the derivitives of which are “elein” (to injure) and “borá” (food).
medicine or poison Many species of Helleboruses, particularly H. niger, have a burning taste, if ingested, and are very poisonous to humans and other animals — so advise consumers to keep them away from children and pets. Like many other poisons, the toxins found in Helleboruses also have been used in many medicines.
bewitchingly devilish Helleboruses have long been associated with witchcraft; they are said to be useful in calling the devil to one’s aid.
home sweet home Helleboruses are native to areas of Europe and western Asia.
Thanks to Barry Glick, Sunshine Farm & Gardens, Renick, W.Va. (www.sunfarm.com) and Kathy McKay, Flamingo
Holland, Vista, Calif. (www.flamingoholland.com/usa/home) for contributing information and images for this article.