A couple of years ago a new summer flowering plant was added to the Fairegarden. Not especially showy or splashy, but with a name that could not be denied. Helenium, or Helen’s flower. Helen was my mother’s name. Her middle name was Frances.
(Shown above trying to break through to center stage between two Eryngiums.)
The flowers were so cheerful and brought to mind such fond memories, a second plant was added. Both were H. ‘Mardi Gras’ and they were indeed like a joyful party.
The little buzzers found the pincushion heads to be the perfect spot to kick up their heels. If they have heels.
Drought tolerant and standing tall, it was decided that more, the magic words in gardening, were needed. Fate would bring H. ‘Coppelia’ into the shopping cart while on an offspring visit to Asheville, North Carolina at B.B.Barnes nursery.
Next stop, present day. Seeds were purchased and started in the greenhouse/sunroom using the handy dandy heat mat and grow lights. Helenium autumnale ‘Sunshine hybrid’ was said to be: “Scarlet, orange, yellow, gold and mahogany blooms with dark centers. This Helenuium is something special. ” by Thompson and Morgan. Who could resist? Not I said the fly. Not me said the flea.
Purported to flower the first year from seed, we can vouch for the veracity of that statement. The plants are juvenile in size, but all the seedlings have flowered, offering an assortment of colorways.
All of the plants have shown great promise for future years of glorious blooms.
A delightful surprise was this solid yellow. Showing the same vigor and floriferousness as the store bought plants, one packet of seeds has provided the longed for *sea of* in the area known as the shed bed.
One of the teenagers turned out to be mostly red. This one will be tagged and the seed gathered to be sowed, sown?, this winter.
Due to a policy of truth in advertising, lest you think all is perfection in the shed bed of the Fairegarden, this warts and all shot will dissuade you of that notion. With the appalling satellite dish in the background just on the other side of the dreadful silver hued chain link fence, yes it is my fence, erected by my dollar, the shed bed is a bit unruly, to put it kindly. The Belamcandas are sporting swollen seed pods that pull the stems earthward, the once named Stipa now known as Nasella tenuissima has straw like dead bits in the majority of its blades and the spent once blue Eryngiums are bronzed in death. It is the tangled mane of the long haired child, uncombable even with a whole bottle of Herbal Essence conditioner. But the dots of Helen brighten the scene considerably, to the eye and to the heart.
Here are some fun facts about Helenium autumnale from our favorite go to source, Mobot, the Missouri Botanical Garden:
Common Name: sneezeweed
Zone: 3 to 8
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Missouri Native: Yes
Native Range: North America
Height: 3 to 5 feet
Spread: 2 to 3 feet
Bloom Time: August – October
Bloom Color: Yellow rays and dull yellow center disks
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun. Prefers rich, moist soils. Intolerant of dry soils. ( dry soils is a relative term. Ours are very dry during our drought ridden summers and do well.) Avoid overfertilization which may cause plants to grow too tall. Although not required, plants may be cut back in early June (at least six weeks before normal flowering) to reduce plant height and to encourage branching, thus leading to a more floriferous bloom, healthier foliage and less need for support. Remove spent flowers to encourage additional bloom. Cut back plants by 1/2 after flowering. Divide clumps as needed (every 3-4 years) to maintain vigor. ( I don’t do that, but maybe should.)
This sneezeweed is an erect, clump-forming, Missouri native perennial which occurs in moist soils along streams, ponds or ditches and in spring-fed meadows, prairie and wet open ground throughout most of the State (Steyermark). Typically grows 3-5′ tall on rigid, distinctively winged stems which branch near the top. Features clusters of daisy-like flowers (2″ diameter) with distinctive wedge-shaped, bright yellow rays (three-lobed at the tips) and prominent, dome-like, dull yellow center disks. Flowers appear over a lengthy late summer to autumn (sometimes to first frost) bloom as indicated by species name. Alternate, lance-shaped, dark green leaves (to 6″ long). Powdered disk flowers and leaves of this species have in the past been dried and used as snuff, thus giving rise to the common name of sneezeweed.( Now that is interesting. I thought it was called sneezeweed because it bloomed at the same time as the notorious Ragweed and blame was misguided.)
No serious insect or disease problems. Foliage is susceptible to powdery mildew, leaf spot and rust. This species generally requires some staking or other support and will benefit from pinching or July-cutback as detailed above. ( Or plant it among friendly neighbors that will help hold it erect, like Nasella.)
Borders. Also effective in prairies, meadows, cottage gardens, wild gardens, naturalized areas or in moist soils along bodies of water.
( or dry slopes.)