I grow a lot of old-fashioned flowers.  I like their hardiness, height and they are often sweetly fragrant.  But plant hybridizers (the people who breed plants to create new and improved varieties) have won me over with all their work on Lenten Roses. 

When I first started growing  Helleborus orientalis (common name–Lenten Rose),  flowers were mostly greenish white with a few purple spots.  Now, you can get all sorts of colorful  blooms.   (See the photo above, taken on Saturday in my garden).   You can even find varieties with double flowers.   And you can find them nearby.  This is Helleborus country.  Our climate suits them and some of the top breeders and growers live in the area. 

Pine Knot Farms, just across the Virgina border in Clarksville are world-famous breeders.  http://www.pineknotfarms.com/.  I’ve never been to one of their open nursery sale days but I’ve heard they are a mad house (in a good way) with all sorts of  top of the line gardeners clamoring for the latest plants.  

Maybe this is the year I will finally get there.  The Pine Knot sale starts this weekend and Clarksville is not that far. 

Meantime–Melissa and I plan to do some  Helleborus viewing even closer to home at Tony Avent’s open garden.  http://www.plantdelights.com/About/openhouse.html. Tony is  a rock-star among gardeners.  A Wake County boy with an international reputation, his open days and garden lectures draw visitors from all over.  I kid you not–people book hotels to see Tony’s garden.   It is just that stunning.  A must see.  

If you are lucky, you will run across Tony as you wander though his garden.  He is super-knowledgeable,  forever young and will always take a question. ( Melissa and I both have crushes on him.)

If you don’t know Tony’s nursery, Plant Delights, check it out http://www.plantdelights.com.  The catalog (usually free to all at the open garden) is great for reading and reference. The pictures are beautiful.   But  Beware.  My friend Kristen,  home recovering from surgery and perusing the Plant Delights catalog, ended up with 800 dollars worth of stuff in her shopping cart.  Tony is passionate about plants and sells their merits very, very well.   (And yes,  Kristen put some back)

Which brings us back to the beautiful new Helleborus hybrids which are also pretty pricey.  I can’t afford many of these lovely plants in my little shopping cart.  But the story has a happy ending.    Once established,  Helleborus drop hundreds of seeds every season.  And those seeds make new plants.  

So check out the high-priced hybrids but don’t feel compelled to buy.    If you’re new to Helleborus, do what Melissa did.  Find a gardener who already grows them, and take home a few baby plants to try. 

Helleborus love to live under tall deciduous trees in my little North Carolina forest.   I give them good soil (improved) , organic fertilizer every March (Plantone)  and water when they are flattened by drought.   In return, they give me glossy foliage year-round and months of late winter bloom.  What a deal.