This almost-black hellebore looks like something straight out of a Victoran funeral. Of all black flowers they have to be the best
Ashwood Nurseries in the Midlands, looking at hellebores and being more impressed than ever by their breeding programme but also by the plant itself, which seems to challenge and transcend our notions about the difference between the wild and the bred. This is their mother-plant greenhouse, where the plants are grown for the hand-pollinated seed. Seed to saleable plant is three years - unlike the one year of most perennials which are sold.
All of the ones so far are H. x hybridus, derived mostly from the very variable Balkan H. orientalis.
This is one of the x sternii group, where there is a lot of active breeding amongst several nurseries. Different hellebore species do not necessarily cross-breed (yet - someone will crack it one day, with a lab technique like 'embryo rescue', the plant equivalent of test-tube babies. At the moment varieties with good flowers tend not to have great foliage and vica versa, but I am sure this will change. There are so many species to play with.
For more on hellebores this is a good introduction.