Hellebores holding their heads up high?

Alexandra Norman explains her findings from a recent experiment with Hellebores…

If you visited the gardens during March, you may have noticed the line of Hellebores in vases in the History room. These were part of an experiment being carried out by florist, Alexandra Norman. Hellebores are notorious for sulking as soon as they are brought indoors, just when you need them to behave! Alexandra’s trial was to determine if certain types of conditioning would reduce the wilt of the Hellebore flower heads in warmer conditions. We thought it would be fun to share the details and results of the trial with you…

Hellebore Experiment

Hellebore Trial – March 2019
Alexandra Norman

• Trialled using Helleborus orientalis varieties, both plain white and dark pink speckled flowers
• Timeframe: 10 days
• Stems: 10” – 12” long in plain water
• Location: History Room
• Temperature: 14° – 18°

Alexandra used 4 methods of conditioning and left one vase of the Hellebores untouched:
1. Stems cut longitudinally (3cm)
2. Hot water blanching (15 seconds)
3. Cut stem seared with naked flame (8-10seconds)
4. Stem scored longitudinally 6 times with a needle (4cm)
5. Control (no conditioning)

The specimens were checked daily for signs of wilting. The first stage wilt of each specimen was recorded.

Interestingly, the control specimen performed the best with first stage wilting occurring on day 10! A close second was the Hellebore seared with the naked flame, this reached first stage wilting on day 8 for the pink speckled flowers and day 10 the white flowers were still fresh.
The third best performing Hellebore was the needle-scored one with first stage wilting occurring on day 6. Fourth was the stem cut longitudinally, first stage wilt occurred on day 5. The worst performing flower was the one blanched in hot water, this one began to wilt on day two!

The flowers with no conditioning and searing cut stems performed the best and blanching dramatically the worst.
Temperature of the room has a huge impact, not unsurprisingly. The cooler the room, the longer they stay fresh. Overall, the pink flowers wilted quicker than the white. The water in the cut and scored stems specimens were very cloudy by day 8 which probably contributed to wilting.


Look out for more experiments during the season!