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How to pick hellebores for the house
Hellebores are amazing flowers - beautiful soft colours, wonderful markings, nodding graceful heads.
They bloom at the coldest time of the year and it isn't surprising that people want to cut them and bring them inside to admire in a vase.
Unfortunately people often find that the flowers droop and shrivel as soon as they are put in water, no matter what you do. Don't despair though - it isn't what you are doing once you have them in the house, it is what you are doing when you choose the flowers to cut initially.
The reason that hellebores are prone to shrivelling is that what look like beautiful petals are in fact sepals. The petals are actually in a tiny ruff around the stamens, right in the centre.
Unlike petals, sepals don't take up water effectively in a vase and when they are not mature they will just shrivel.
When they are mature however they are much more solid, sturdy and almost waxy and will hold up fine in a vase (or even out of water as hair decorations or buttonholes). This is when you want to pick them.
What you are looking for is seeds forming right in the centre of the flower - in the pink flower in the photo they are tiny little pointed seeds, right in the centre of the ruff of petals. This is the earliest you should pick your hellebores.
In this one you can see that the seeds are more developed and the petals have gone. A flower like this will last happily in the vase.
Tips for picking hellebores (much of this is really so that any leaves and stems in your arrangement look good)
- Do not pick until you can see the seeds forming in the centre of the flowers
- Cut stems at an angle and immediately put into water.
- Sear the lower inch of the stem in boiling water.
- Take off all the leaves you do not want (I like leaves in arrangements of hellebores, so I just remove ones that will be under water or are a bit raggedy)
- Put into a vase of luke warm water and leave for an hour before arranging.
If you are desperate to use flowers which are not mature then you can float them in a shallow bowl or water or in champagne bowls down the centre of a table. The arrangement will only last a few days but the hellebores will take up water through the sepals and they will not shrivel.