Ivory Prince HelleboreHelleborus 'Walhelivor' (PP# 16,199)
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Helleborus 'Walhelivor' (PP# 16,199)
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
Late winter doesn’t have to be a time of waiting in the garden – it can be a time of flowers, if you plant the Ivory Prince Hellebore. Blooming often by February, and all through March and April, this great plant overcomes the problems of older varieties because the flowers don’t hang their heads – they stand up proud and open their petals to the world. A complex hybrid packed with vigor, you will be amazed how quickly this plant takes to your garden, and soon becomes a large, strong plant with an abundance of flowers like you have never seen. The buds are soft burgundy, opening to reveal an ivory-white center surrounding golden stamens. As the flowers age over the weeks, they turn soft shades of rose and pale chartreuse green. Always attractive, this plant is great in beds beneath trees or the shade of large shrubs, in woodlands, or if you are in a warmer zone, growing in pots. The leathery leaves are especially attractive, with silver veining.
Grow the Ivory Prince Hellebore in partial shade, with some morning sun preferred. Light full shade is also suitable, such as beneath large deciduous trees. Very adaptable to most well-drained soil, preferring rich, alkaline soils that are generally moist, although it’s drought-resistant once well-established. Add some compost, and some lime if your soil is acidic, when planting. Cut off flowering stems and any old, damaged or unsightly leaves, once flowering is over. Ignored by deer and rabbits, and almost never suffers any attack by pests or diseases.
The pleasure of having flowers in your garden even before spring truly arrives is one gardeners seek – and no wonder, after living through the long, dark months of winter. Christmas and Lenten roses, today usually called hellebores, have been popular for centuries, exactly because they bloom in winter in milder areas, and very early spring in colder ones. The trouble is, these plants are ‘shy’, and the flowers remain partially closed, like a cup, not a bowl, and hang down, so they are not as showy as they might be. Improving this look has been a long-term goal of breeders, and now, riding to the rescue, is the Ivory Prince Hellebore. Dedicated breeding has created a plant that stands proud, holding up the flowers, and opening them flat, creating a stunning and showy look – like Cinderella’s ‘before and after’. Also incredibly vigorous, it is in bloom, and a sturdy, substantial plant within a couple of seasons, not the years and years old varieties used to take. The glossy and leathery leaves are especially beautiful too, with elegant silver veining. It is also suitable for pots, where it can be brought into a cool porch for extra-early blooming, and to keep the flowers pristine and pure.
The Ivory Prince Hellebore is a long-lived and durable perennial plant that holds its leaves through winter in all but the very coldest zones. Several short, 6-inch stems develop, carrying large leaves divided into 5 or 7 oval leaflets with serrated edges. The evergreen leaves are leathery, glossy and smooth, with pronounced silver veins running through the dark-green of the leaf. Leaves are about 9 inches long, and form a mound of foliage about 12 inches tall and up to 2 feet across. Growth is vigorous and rapid, making substantial plants within just a few seasons.
Flowers grow in upright clusters from the tops of the stems, bringing the plant to 2 feet tall. They begin to open in winter or very early spring, depending on your zone and how you grow the plant. The flowers are round, with 5 broad, partially-fused petals surrounding a pronounced central stigma. They are 2 inches wide when newly-opened, expanding to 3 inches as they mature. The buds are burgundy-pink, opening to a clean ivory-white on the inside of the bloom, which is wide open from an early stage, and only very slightly nodding. Unusually, when the flower is mature and seeds begin to form the petals don’t drop, but remain in place, giving a flowering period of about 2 months. From that first ivory-white, the flowers slowly change to soft rose-pink and then to shades of chartreuse-green – always fascinating and always lovely. Green seed pods develop in the center of the flower, adding a fascinating touch.
This plant is ideal for filling blank spaces around the edges of beds of mostly deciduous shrubs. It makes a good ground cover, looking attractive year-round, and of course there is the thrill of blooms in winter. Grow it also in woods, and in shady beds of perennials and low shrubs. It can also be grown in pots from zone 6, which means you can bring it into a cool porch in winter, giving you early blooms that are always clean and without damage from winter storms.
The Ivory Prince Hellebore is hardy almost everywhere, from zone 4 to zone 9. In warm zones it will flower in February, while in cooler areas it will flower in March or April. Some damage to foliage is to be expected in zone 4 and possibly in zone 5 – plants quickly send up new shoots after flowering.
Areas with partial shade are ideal – some morning sun is great. Or the Ivory Prince Hellebore grows well in light dappled shade, such as beneath larger deciduous shrubs and trees. That way they receive light from late fall through to early spring. The ideal soil is alkaline, moist and rich, although established plants are resistant to summer drought, and will grow in most soils. Add a handful of lime to the soil when planting, if you have acidic soil.
Deer won’t bother with this plant, as all parts of it are poisonous. It usually has no important pests or diseases, but keep an eye out for slugs, which can attack the flower buds when they are close to the ground. Cut off flower spikes once they are no longer attractive, leaving the foliage. Older stems may die after new stems grow up – if that happens just cut out the old stem at ground level. No other care is needed.
The Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, is a plant native to Switzerland and surrounding mountains in Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia. It has been grown in gardens for hundreds of years for its winter blooms. It can be crossed with other species of hellebores, and that is what the late David Tristram, owner of Walberton Nurseries in Arundel, England, did to create the Ivory Prince Hellebore. He bred his hybrids for many years, seeking plants that showed their flowers, without nodding or closing. He spent 15 years, from 1980 to 1995, breeding his plants, before finding his goal – a plant he named ‘Walhelivor’. It was patented in 2006, and given the name Walberton’s® Ivory Prince to distinguish it from others.
You will be amazed at the vigor and quantity of blooms the Ivory Prince Hellebore produces – and the wonderful way the flowers stand up and look at you. Then there are the incredible colors, making this a vastly superior plant to old-fashioned Christmas roses. Order now, as plants like this grow under trees, not on them. They are in short supply, and sell out fast.