The end of winter is upon us and the first Hellebores have begun to open, providing lush exotic blossoms for Slow Flower arranging, at last. I couldnt help myself a couple of weeks ago and cut a bouquet from plants growing in the cold frame. Alas, after only a few hours, they had begun to flop over and looked wilted in the vase. I dont recall this happening before, so I did some research.
Heres a little botany. There are basically 2 categories of Hellebores: the caulescent group, which means the blossoms are born in multiples on stems produced the previous year (includes the species foetidus and argutifolus) and acaulescent group, which send up flowering stems from the plants base as winters end draws near (i.e. the orientalis hybrids, commonly known as Lenten Rose). In the past few decades, breeders have been crossing the 2 groups and we now have hellebores that fall somewhere in between. The acaulescent types, meaning the showy Lenten Roses, should be picked when the flowers have aged a bit and the ovary (the seed pod in the center) has begun to swell, which is the same time that its pollen and anthers will have begun to drop. These slightly aged blossoms last longer cut (in the past, I must have unwittingly cut older blossoms). If you must pick young just opened buds, cut short stems. Note that the caulescent types, such as H. foetidus, hold up better without flopping. Helleborus Ivory Prince, shown here, is a cross between the 2 types, and offers the best traits of both.
The next step is to condition the stems in hot, almost boiling water. Dip the stems into hot water and let sit for 30 seconds. Remove, then place in a vase of water with a tiny bit of vodka, or about 1 T. vodka per quart of tap water. I have read that some people skip the hot water treatment and instead sear the stems over an open flame, but that makes me hesitate. Hellebore blossoms will hold up longer in a cool room.
Do you have a tip that you would like to share for keeping Hellebore blossoms fresh?