Double your Christmas Fun

Looking great for the last couple of weeks in the garden are the double forms of the Christmas rose, one of the first hellebores to bloom in the garden. This clump of Helleborus niger ‘Snowbells’ is looking particularly nice. Hardiness zone 3a to 7b.

Helleborus niger ‘Snowbells’

Sasanqua Satisfaction

We love the fall-flowering show of Camellia sasanqua, that’s underway now at JLBG. Here are a few of our favorites, starting with the amazing Camellia sasanqua ‘Fall Fantasy’. This hybrid from the late Chapel Hill camellia guru, Cliff Parks is unlike anything we’ve seen both in number of flowers as well as the incredible double pink form.

Camellia sasanqua 'Fall Fantasy' in full flower
Camellia sasanqua ‘Fall Fantasy’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Ginba’ is Japanese introduction with lovely frosted-tipped leaves. This is also a slower growing selection.

Camellia sasanqua 'Ginba'
Camellia sasanqua ‘Ginba’
Close up of the variegated foliage of Camellia sasanqua 'Ginba'
Camellia sasanqua ‘Ginba’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Leslie Ann’ is truly breathtaking. With a much more open habit, this cultivar is truly elegant. In form, it resembles a flowering cherry, far more than a camellia. This is an introduction from Alabama’s Ray Davis in 1960.

Close up of the flowers of Camellia sasanqua 'Leslie Ann'
Camellia sasanqua ‘Leslie Ann’
Open habit of Camellia sasanqua 'Leslie Ann'
Camellia sasanqua ‘Leslie Ann’

I’ll end up with another truly unique selection, also from the late Cliff Parks. Camellia sasanqua ‘William Lanier Hunt’ is the closest to blue flowers we’ve seen. Each pink flower has a blue cast that increases as the flowers age. This selection is named after the late NC plantsman of the same name.

Camellia sasanqua 'William Lanier Hunt' in bloom
Camellia sasanqua ‘William Lanier Hunt’
Camellia sasanqua 'William Lanier Hunt' in bloom
Camellia sasanqua ‘William Lanier Hunt’

Ooops a Daisy

Many clonal plants we grow today are propagated by tissue culture…also known as micropropagation. In most cases, this involves taking tiny cuttings and growing them in a test tube filled with a goey algae product known as agar. Tissue culture allows many rare plants to be produced quickly and often inexpensively, which is great when it comes to making plants available far and wide. When vegatatively propagating plants through more conventional “macro” methods, it’s usually easy to notice when a mutation occurs. That’s not always the case in micropropagation since the plants are much smaller and don’t flower until they are grown out after leaving the lab. This is why daylily tissue culture has been disastrous. All kinds of floral mutation occur in the lab, only to be noticed years later after the plants are sold and grown out in home gardens.

All of the hellebores clones are micropropagated and so far, we have found almost no floral mutations…until this week. Below is a micropropagated double-flowered clone of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger ‘Snow Frills’. The top image is the correct plant with two rows of petals. The bottom is a mutation we found in the garden in which the second row of petals is mutated. Honestly, we like the mutation better. As a plant producer, however, we don’t know what form we will receive in our next batch of plants from the lab, but that’s simply the nature of the process.

Helleborus niger ‘Snow Frills’
Helleborus niger ‘Snow Frills’ floral mutation.