This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
As our gardens move toward their summer climax there are so many perennials in bloom that it is really hard for me to zero in on any one group of plants. Crocosmia and Penstemon and Daisies and Hyssop and Salvias to name just a few are all coming into their glory.
But as I perused our benches this morning I couldn’t help but notice the Heleniums or Sneezeweed with their festive colors of gold and red and rust and orange. They seem like very happy flowers to me, sort of like sunflowers but smaller and they are sturdier than Gallardia or Blanket flower. And there are enough variations of them that you can have some blooming now all the way into the fall.
Sneezeweed is also known as Helen’s Flower which in my book is a lot more gardener-friendly name. While I will readily admit that many of the perennials I sell are indeed weeds in some other part of the country that doesn’t mean they will be weeds in our gardens.
Joe Pye weed for example is an absolute delight to have in the garden and in other parts of the country Fireweed is actually sort after. But in the interest of good marketing I am sticking with Helen’s Flower when talking about Heleniums.
Here are a few that we have on the bench this time of year.
Sahin’s Early Flowerer—this is a strong grower that can reach 30-36 inches tall and makes a great companion for ornamental grasses. Flowers are yellow-orange-bronze bicolor, daisy-like with brown central cones. You can learn more about this and other Heleniums at www.blooomingadvantage.com
Mariachi Salsa—this is a new series for me that offers vivid orange red daisies on a short and compact plant that only grows 24-30 inches tall.
Mariachi Fuego—even shorter than Salsa, this one grows 15-18 inches tall and boasts intense orange and yellow flowers.
Short n’ Sassy—like the name implies, Short n’ Sassy tops out at 12-18 inches and has bright gold and orange flowers that are long blooming and start earlier than other Heleniums. It is also well suited for containers since it stays more compact. I should mention that all Heleniums make great cut flowers and they attract butterflies.
There are many other varieties that come into bloom later in the summer but I will save those for another time.
For now remember that these are sun loving, heat and drought tolerant plants that prefer good drainage and are hardy to -40 degrees. They will reliably come back year after year unless you plant them where it is too wet.
Take a minute and Google Helenium and you will be amazed at the range of color, height and bloom time that this genus offers to the northwest gardener. I have several planted in our garden and they just make me smile when they come into bloom. I suspect they will do the same for you.
Don’t forget to take in the Snohomish Garden Tour this coming Sunday July 28th. We have tickets for sale or you can pick them up the day of the tour at the Senior Center in Snohomish where they are also having a raffle and plant sale.
Finally, don’t forget to keep that hose running somewhere in the garden this month and don’t be afraid to keep planting. I do it all summer long and so can you.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at email@example.com.