Getting down into the gutter…

NW Cotton Candy 2

There are no finer blooms than those of the hellebores in late winter. The only even slightly negative thing I can say about these lovely nodding bells is that you almost have to lay on the ground on your back to photograph their blossoms! This is one of a half dozen or so I sited up the slight slope of a narrow long side yard on our corner lot. So indeed, I was literally in the gutter with my camera propped on the curb trying to get this picture.

This is Helleborus x hybridus ‘NW Cotton Candy’ (also sometimes labeled ‘NGN Cotton Candy’) in its first winter bloom. The lawn in this side bed was removed in 2017 and the area replanted between late 2017 and early 2018. This 1 gallon plant went in just about this time last year, at the tail end of when hellebores are in full bloom in the garden centers.

NW Cotton Candy 3

It is one of three and is tucked under the shady canopy of a mature Bradford pear. I have to give it stellar marks for vigor as this area is extremely dry shade with ample root competition for what little summer water is available. The trio was a little peaked through the hottest summer months but nothing more than to be expected of perennials not yet having settled into their new homes. The recent rains have helped tremendously and there is a nice first year show of blooms on each plant.

The Cotton Candy strain is one of a series of Northwest Garden Nursery hellebores produced from hand pollinated plants in the Eugene, Oregon garden home of Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne. The O’Byrnes have dabbled (their words–I’d call it way more than dabbling) in hellebore breeding since the early 1990s. You may be familiar with other strains in their wildly popular Winter Jewel series. I recently bought their ‘Ruby Wine’ which is almost black with a purple sheen. Although they are primarily breeders and wholesalers they do have select retail days throughout the year. Hellebore Garden Open Days each February offer opportunities to tour their garden. The 2019 Open Days are right around the corner–February 16th and 23th. Please visit their website to read all about the O’Byrnes and get a glimpse of their garden. Don’t miss clicking on the Gallery tab to see individual photos of their single flowered and double flowered strains–a feast for any gardener’s eyes!

NW Cotton Candy 1

I first came to adore these so called Lenten Roses when I lived in Georgia where they multiplied readily under the protection of tall pines. While I admire their variety and their propensity to ‘pollinate amongst themselves’ producing seedlings whose eventual blooms look nothing like anything you what actually purchased, I love none more than the ones I just call Mary’s hellebores which were seedlings from the garden of my dear friend Mary S. Transplanted from my Macon garden to my California garden–a very long over the garden fence trip–they did not reach blooming age until after we had left Georgia but now provide me with bountiful blooms and memories, growing vigorously and offering me countless seedlings to pass along to yet another gardening friend.

NW Cotton Candy 4

7 thoughts on “Getting down into the gutter…

    1. Hard to say, Pam. I’m not sure what zone your new home is in nor the elevation (cooler mountain air might help.) For sure they would need shade and probably supplemental water in the drier months. They are not ideally suited for Fresno either but work the effort. You had one, probably a different strain, amongst the baby tears in your front door courtyard for years.



  1. Since the season began, I have been commenting to those who grow these that they do not do so well here. We grew them back in the 1990s, and clients bought as many as we could provide. I never liked it though because they always looked substandard. The clients assured me that they would do well in the landscape. The stock plants never looked so good. Yet yours look like they do in the Northwest and Sierra Nevada and elsewhere! I wish mine looked so good.


    1. Tony—I have had many that started out really puny and beaten up by the heat and dry air here. If you can baby them through their first couple of seasons most really end up being vigorous plants. The boom colors on the hybrids have improved immensely in the last decade. At one time many were very muddy looking. My enduring favorites will always be the seedlings gleaned from those which were naturalized in my dear friend’s garden long before we even had many of the new hybrids.


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      1. Most of what we sold were seedlings. We grew cultivars too, but propagation by division was so limited. The seedlings just showed up whether we wanted them or not, and clients purchased them before they bloomed to show color.


    1. I just love them too! Especially the ones from my friend Mary’s yard. If it wasn’t several hours out of our way I would harvest some from her garden to add to the casual wedding bouquet our sweet Laura will carry when she and our youngest son Josh marry in North Georgia on the 23rd!



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