Hellebore Heaven.

We were up in the North West last weekend for the undergardener’s cousin’s 80th Birthday. Unknown to me, the undergardener had googled “Hellebores” and found the National Collection of Hellebores was just off the M6 Motorway in Staffordshire and convenient to where we were heading. You don’t always get it right when you google an address…….

We stopped first at a rather forboding looking farmhouse, Hazel Farm,  it looked more and more run down the nearer we got. No polytunnels in sight, no hellebores to be seen, by the time we reached the farmyard we fully expected an irate farmer to appear with a shotgun and a fierce dog, telling us to “get off his land”! We did a quick about turn, then drove further down the road and eventually found Hazles Cross Farm Nursery, home to the National Collection of Hellebores with its charming and very knowledgeable owner, Mike Byford.

National collection of Hellebores.

National collection of Hellebores.

We were immediately taken round to the polytunnel where the collection was housed and spent a very happy hour listening to Mike talk about his collection and where he has collected the seed from.

So many beautiful varieties.

So many beautiful varieties.

The collection are planted in huge pots and look extremely happy.

Helleborus niger.

Helleborus niger.

The first long row of pots on the left were all species which Mike uses in his breeding programme.

He. thibetanus

H. thibetanus

I did have this beauty once but it didn’t appear a second time, after chatting to Mike about it, I think it was our winter wet that didn’t suit it.

So Beautiful!

So Beautiful!

Mike doesn’t name his crosses, they all have numbers, but I thought this was was perfection. Dark nectaries, a very thin line of purple round the edge of the petals and a few delicate purple spots like a dusting of freckles!

These came home with me!

These came home with me!

I finally arrived at the “Sale” table and these 3 jumped out at me as they were so different from all the ones I already have. Ignore the little pot of iris, I’ll tell you all about them in my next post!

Dark nectaries with very delicate colouring on the sepals.

Dark nectaries with very delicate veining on the more pointed sepals.

More rounded sepals with dark edges bleeding inwards, very pretty.

More rounded sepals with dark edges bleeding inwards, very pretty. These flowers are quite small compared to other hellebores, I hope they stay like that as they are very different from my others.

Purple on the outside with a much paler inside.

Purple on the outside with a much paler inside, beautiful.

It was now time for us to continue our journey, Mike gave me a leaflet about the nursery and when I read it in the car, there in large red lettering, it said, By Appointment Only!  Sorry Mike, thank you for being so good to 2 travellers who just turned up without an appointment, thank you for your knowledge and patience, I spent a wonderful hour  with you and your hellebores!

If you would like to look at the nursery website, go to  www.hazelscrossfarmnursery.co.uk


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42 Responses to Hellebore Heaven.

  1. Sally says:

    Hi Pauline,
    I’m in love with the freckled Hellebore as well! They were all lovely…..You got some wonderful plants to add to your woodland garden. I hope your little one makes it, too! I think I’ll do an internet search to see if there are any Hellebore specialists in Massachusetts.

    • Pauline says:

      The freckled one was so beautiful Sally, I fell in love straight away! The one with the smaller flowers looks more like some of the species with their small flowers, they look so dainty compared with the frilly doubles.

  2. Alison says:

    That freckled Hellebore is lovely! At this time of year they are hard to resist.

  3. Anna says:

    Well done to the Undergardener! Even nearer to me Pauline and I was unaware of its existence. I will now have to investigate alternative routes to the dreaded M6. I find motorway travel overwhelming so it can make life complicated. The freckled hellebore you fell in love with me is my idea of perfection too. My thibetanus gave up the ghost after two years. Does Mike grow it successfully in the open?

    • Pauline says:

      The undergardener does really well sometimes Anna, this visit was one of the best! I must say that we avoid the motorways whenever possible, or I do anyway, especially the M6!
      The freckled hellebore that we all like, wasn’t for sale unfortunately, otherwise it would have come home with me, I will just have to keep looking.
      I wasn’t shown any hellebores growing outside so I don’t know if Mike had H. thibetanus anywhere apart from in the polytunnel, that’s something you can ask him when you visit!

  4. rusty duck says:

    Oh, I’d have been in seventh heaven. ‘So Beautiful’ certainly is!!

  5. Julie says:

    Just beautiful, Pauline! How fun an adventure 🙂
    I agree… that white and plum is divine! As well as the ones you picked up.

    And those are my favorite irises too! We have a few coming up already, which is quite a surprise for us in March!

    Happy spring to you!!

    • Pauline says:

      It certainly was amazing to see so many different varieties Julie. I have plenty of double ones in the garden here, but now I seem to be veering once again towards the more simple varieties.
      We had such a warm December here, our little Iris reticulata were up and flowering before Christmas and are now just a happy memory! My new little pot will be added amongst the snowdrops in the woodland, we bought them at the garden we stopped at on the way home, see next post!

  6. Denise says:

    How very kind of the undergardener to discover hellebore heaven. I bet there weren’t any that you wouldn’t gladly take home with you. I have relatives in the North West so will definitely keep Hazles Cross Farm in mind when visiting them.

    • Pauline says:

      The undergardener is amazing sometimes Denise, he manages to find just the right place to take me! I was spoilt for choice when it came to choosing just a few hellebores to take home.
      We are originally from the North West, many years ago, it was lovely to go back and meet the friendly people from the north again!

  7. Sigrun says:

    Hi, a very nice collection – thibetanus I have new in the garden, it is very small, a baby but my hope!


    • Pauline says:

      It was a beautiful collection Sigrun, so many different species and hybrids.I hope your H. thibetanus grows well, better than mine did, it really is a stunning plant, maybe I ought to try again.

  8. Christina says:

    Lucky you Pauline, what a lovely way to break your journey. You have a very special Under gardener.

    • Pauline says:

      He is very special Christina, he certainly knows how to make me happy! It made a lovely break in the journey and gave us an opportunity to walk around after sitting for such a long time. It was interesting to see all the different species hellebores that have been used in the hybrids, crossing them mostly with Helleborus niger.

  9. Susie says:

    Sounds like a great place to visit. You made lovely selections.

    • Pauline says:

      It was so interesting Susie, seeing which plants were used to create the hybrids we see today. At the moment Mike is trying to breed new plants that are deep purple outside but much paler inside, he must have endless patience as it all takes quite some time.

  10. Sue C. says:

    They are lovely. What an exciting find and great to have some new hellebores as a reminder of your weekend.

  11. snowbird says:

    What a fabulous selection, like everyone else, I’m in love with freckles! I just love hellebores so would have been in heaven too.xxx

    • Pauline says:

      I just wish Freckles had been for sale Dina, unfortunately not, so I had to buy the nearest I could find. It’s such an interesting place to visit if you ever get the chance.

  12. Cathy says:

    What a treat! I love those pale pink ones you chose. I wish we had such a nursery near us so I could extend my very small collection! 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      I chose the pale single ones Cathy as they are so different from what I already have. Having lots of frilly doubles already in the garden, I felt the smaller singles would be a nice change. We are very lucky here to have people who devote all their spare time to their collections of plants which are open to the public.

  13. annie_h says:

    What a great trip Pauline, you were definitely in heaven with all those gorgeous hellebores. I’ll make a note of this place, certainly looks worth a visit. The speckled one was perfection. The ones you bought looked lovely too, be great having more in your garden. Am already madly jealous of your collection!! It is great to meet people so dedicated to one plant, such knowledge.

    • Pauline says:

      I certainly was in heaven Annie, so many lovely hellebores to enjoy! We all seem to like Mikes speckled one, it really stood out from the rest. His knowledge was amazing and his scientific background shows in his breeding programmes.

  14. catmint says:

    Hi Pauline, certainly heavenly hellebores. The only negative about hellebores is their shyness – always looking down instead of looking you in the eye. Crawling about on the ground to get a photo is not an easy gig. Sweet thoughtful undergardener you’ve got there … and happy birthday to his cousin.

    • Pauline says:

      Nature knows best Catmint! The flowers face downwards to protect the pollen at a time of year when we have storms, gales, hail, sleet, snow etc. Some breeders are now breeding them to have more upward facing flowers, but are finding that when the pollen gets wet, the flowers turn to a mushy brown mess, instead of shedding the water and lasting for months. Not easy to photograph, as you say, but they are how nature intended!

  15. Chloris says:

    Heaven indeed Pauline. What a treat. How difficult to make a choice amongst so many beauties but I love your selection. Is it winter wet or frost that kills off lovely H. thibetanus? What a gem it is.

    • Pauline says:

      I think it was the winter wet Chloris, that finished of my H. thibetanus, it doesn’t like sitting in wet soil. From its name, I assume it comes from the Tibet/China border which is pretty high up so temperatures will be very low in the winter, but then, maybe it is protected from the worst of the cold by a thick layer of snow? Maybe I should try again, but in a pot this time, so that I can bring it into the porch over winter!

  16. Angie says:

    I love that freckled hellebore – it looks ever so delicate.
    How lovely of Mike to make you welcome despite the appointment only system. Who knows perhaps you were a welcome distraction in what may have been an otherwise boring day.

    • Pauline says:

      Mike never mentioned that we should have made an appointment Angie, how polite is that! I think we can all say that the freckled hellebore is our favourite, he’s on to a winner there.

  17. wendy says:

    I adore Hellebores, too, – so I’d also be in heaven there. What a wonderful place to wander around! I would have had trouble choosing which to bring home. It must have been so interesting learning more about this flower from an expert and having the opportunity to ask him questions.

    • Pauline says:

      There weren’t that many hellebores that were for sale Wendy, 95% were the Hellebore National Collection, so were permanently in huge pots and therefore not for sale. It was so interesting being able to talk to someone who knows so much about the plants and their origins.

  18. Jason says:

    Hellebore heaven indeed! That one in the fifth picture down is stunning. I have only recently developed a fondness for Hellebores, but they are growing on me.

    • Pauline says:

      Hellebores come at a time of year Jason, when not much else is flowering, they bring a nice splash of colour to the garden and make sure that I get out there each day, no matter what the weather. We don’t often get snow, which of course helps, but they can cope with frost, taking it in their stride.

  19. Cathy says:

    Ooh, this a new one on me – one to make a note of and call in into in hellebore season when we are in the vicinity, although not in my non plant buying year!! I had to smile at you making a beeline for the sale table – I think we would all be the same!

    • Pauline says:

      I thought I was very patient Cathy, it was an hour before I asked which plants were for sale! I think you would enjoy it, it was very wet underfoot, we had taken wellies, just in case and they were certainly needed!

  20. Janet Cross says:

    What a perfect way to break a journey, and your three new hellebores look lovely.

    • Pauline says:

      It was the perfect stop on our journey Janet and so interesting talking to Mike. He was a mine of information and knows everything that needs to be known about hellebores!

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