Helleborus ×ballardiae 'Raulston Remembered'
Ballard's hybrid hellebore
Few plants evoke the charm of winter like the hellebores. Their beautiful flowers which emerge from late fall into early spring depending on the species make a delightful addition to both shady and sunny garden spots where the palmately compound foliage gives a year-round presence even when not in flower.
While each selection of hellebore has its own charm, one hybrid is only recently gaining widespread attention. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Helen Ballard began crossing H. lividus with H. niger creating lovely hybrids which came to be known as H. ×ballardiae in her honor. The H. lividus parent is a fairly tender species that needs to be placed in a protected spot even in warm zone 7 gardens. Its trifoliate leaves are mottled and veined with silver to a greater or lesser extent and the undersides of the leaves and petioles are often tinged purplish-red. Rosy-pink buds open to display creamy white to pink flowers which open flat and face outward. The other parent, H. niger, has much more divided leaves often with up to nine leaflets. White flowers often age to pink and this species does not appreciate the heat of the Southeast.
H. ×ballardiae combines some of the best traits of both of its parents. It is more cold hardy than H. lividus but retains the silver veining and often has red backs to the foliage but tolerates heat much better than H. niger. It produces a cluster of flowers which can individually be 4" across on the best forms when fully open and held on red stalks. Plants are diminutive compared to some other selections, generally only growing to about 15" or so tall. The large flowers open from pink buds and are generally pink on the outside and creamy white to pink in the interior.
'Raulston Remembered' was a plant that we received originally from Pine Knot Farms' Judith and Dick Tyler in 2002. Judith and Dick with C. Colston Burrell wrote and photographed the fantastic Hellebores A Comprehensive Guide. The plant proved to be a vigorous, heavy flowering clone with deep red flower stems and large flowers in nice clusters. After observing our plant for quite a few years, they felt it was a superior clone and requested a division back. After getting it propagated, they named it in honor of J. C. Raulston.
H. ×ballardiae 'Raulston Remembered' grows well in light shade in a rich, organic soil but will tolerate a significant amount of sun or shade and will take fairly dry conditions once established. The hybrid is generally considered sterile and all new forms had to be hand pollinated or divided so production was slow and the hybrids were hard to come by. Now, this cultivar and others can be increased rapidly through micropropagation in a lab. This has led to an influx of other fantastic selections of H. ×ballardiae, most notably the hybrids from the German breeding program of Josef Heuger often denoted by "HGC" in the cultivar name for "hellebore gold collection."
You can see 'Raulston Remembered' at the JCRA in the Winter Garden, Lath House, and by the "Who was J.C. Raulston?" sign by the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center where it is generally in flower between mid-February to mid-March.