Yesterday I posted about a pretty amazing hellebore hybrid and today we have another. This one is a bit more subtle but just as extraordinary. This beauty is a cross of the white-flowered, stemless H. niger and the green-flowered, shrubby H. foetidus and it was introduced last year. Crosses of H. niger with the stemmed hellebores are not new (such as H. x nigercors) but this is the first time the cross has been successful with H. foetidus, the stinking hellebore. And who managed it? The Dutch seed company K. Sahin Zaden BV made the cross and named it after the founder of the company Kees Sahin. And before you think I am going mad, his nickname was not Winterbells! The complete name for the plant is H. x sahinii ‘Winterbells’.
It is quite a smart little plant. The foliage is deep green and beautifully divided in a way that is so typical of its shrubby parent and the flowers are white, just like the other parent but they are held on arching, reddish stems in small clusters. The flowers are midway in size between the two parents. Although I cannot judge yet, one of the exceptional qualities of this plant (because it is sterile) is that it flowers on and on. It is supposed to bloom from November till May but we will see.
The flowers open with a slight pinky peach flush and mature to white with a green heart and pretty lime nectaries but age to green. This is one really beautiful plant that has the best qualities of both parents. Apparently only one seed was produced from the cross made by K. Sahin Zaden BV. How lucky were they that they got this plant. It could so easily have had the small green flowers of H. foetidus and the dull leaves of H. niger. Instead they got the best of the cross and we got an amazing new winter plant.
According to the details of the US Plant patent the cross was made in 2004 and H. niger was the female (pod) parent. The seedling was identified in 2006 and propagated. Its distinct features are listed as: upright, mounded habit, free branching, early and free flowering, long flowering habit, single white and light green flowers and good garden performance. It is stated that plants grow to 32cm high and almost 45cm across and a plant typically has about 12 flowers per stem and 84 flowers per plant with flowers just under 5cm across.
It is a hardy plant but it is said that it will tolerate temperatures as high as 35c and is in the USDA Hardiness Zone 5 so will be perfectly hardy throughout the British Isles.