Helenium, "Sneezeweed"

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Read more about this beauty.

Standing on the Gardens' Plaza, a glowing splash of harvest colors striped in orange, mahogany red, and butter yellow is quite the attention getter. Helenium, or Helen's flower, is named after Helen of Troy because of the ancient legend that tells how flowers sprouted because of Helen's tears. Specific epithet, autumnale is derived from the fact that the plant typically flowers in autumn. Helenium autumnale is a brilliant choice for the late season garden. Black, purple, or green-yellow centers are the disc flowers that persist long after the showy ray flowers have fallen away. Helenium autumnale 'Zimbelstern' is another new large cultivar growing four to five feet with bright golden, mahogany-streaked petals and russet colored discs. Helenium autumnale 'Red Jewel' , just as the name implies, simply sparkles hues of rich reds. While Helenium autumnale 'Butterpat' is one of the new additions to the Gardens with butter yellow blooms and dark centers, Helenium autumnale 'Moorheim Beauty' and 'Mardi Gras' have been the mainstay for color in the Gardens, from late July through August but with the new additions the extensions of fiery bloom will last into October. Most Heleniums grow three to four feet tall and spread three-plus feet allowing for drift plantings. As a cut flower, it lasts 10 or more days in a vase and dries well for out of season arrangements. My personal favorite is our western native Helenium puberulum which has prominent spherical disc florets with very small recurved or non-existent ray flowers. The stems and leaves are lance shaped, giving the appearance that the plant is wearing a green coat. It grows in wet and dry areas but prefers wet, as do most species and cultivars. They all will take heavy soils and can take some drought but looks best with regular water. The common name, sneezeweed, is based on the former use of its dried leaves in making snuff, inhaled to cause sneezing that would supposedly rid the body of evil spirits. It is not a plant to eat however, as most parts are toxic. Check with Janet and Nancy in the Gardens' Nursery for this end-of-season beauty. Lily Ricardi Gardener/Curator