Plant collector : Helleborus x sternii

Helleborus sternii in a woodland setting

Helleborus sternii in a woodland setting

There are more hellebores than just the common H. orientalis and sternii is one we appreciate in the winter woodland. It has distinctive green flowers, sometimes flushed purple, and lovely glaucous foliage which is finer in appearance. Glaucous just means it has a blue or grey cast to the colour. It is more upright in growth and does not make as dense a clump as orientalis. In addition to that, it holds its flowers in a cluster above the foliage and many of them are outward facing rather than all nodding (or facing downwards). So it displays its flowers a little better than H. orientalis.

The x sternii means it is a hybrid – in this case a cross between H. argutifolius (from Corsica and Sardinia) and H. lividus (from Majorca). From those origins, you can guess that it is quite happy in hot, dry conditions and the information is often given that it is suited to sunny positions. In our garden, sunny positions are at a premium whereas we have woodland in abundance so we are always after plant candidates for shadier positions. Plants like this hellebore which are not at all fussy, are very handy to add winter interest.

Sternii can be raised from seed or by division. There are named selections of sternii around – the seed from these won’t come true so they need to be divided or increased by cutting if you want to keep their special features. It appears that many of the newer forms are extending the colour range into purer pinks, burgundy, slate and white – akin to the orientalis colour range. We only have the original green flowered forms and have not seen the other colours in this country yet.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.