Friday, 27 November 2009
Plants Not To Be Sneezed At!
I am ashamed to say that until earlier this year I had always turned my nose up at them - heleniums that is. Then earlier this year these plants were the subject of one of my garden club meetings. Our speaker Martin Blow came from 'Special Perennials' a nursery near Hankelow, Crewe. I must admit that this was one of the meetings which on paper did not appeal to me. I almost stayed at home which would have been my loss. The nursery holds a National Collection of heleniums and Martin is a most knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker.
Martin explained that these plants are known as "Sneezeweed" in America ( I am not sure why), whilst in Germany they are called “Sonnenbraut”, which translates as 'Sun Brides" . The latter seems a much more fitting name for these bright and cheerful flowers.
You will find heleniums in a range of sizes from 18 inches to 6½ feet. The taller varieties will need staking. With careful choice of varieties it is possible to heleniums bloom in your garden from June - November in the U.K. If purchasing a new plant the advice was to look out for a healthy young plant and make sure that there are no distorted leaves. When planting remember that plants need plenty of sun or at least part sun. Heleniums like moisture and should be watered in dry spells.
There is no need to feed them. Martin advised us not to subject these plants to 'The Chelsea Chop' but instead to do some judicious snipping, when the plants are 6-7 inches high. Most heleniums are self branching anyway. A September snip of dead flowers is recommended which encourages plants to continue flowering until October/November time. Once established in the garden It was recommended that plants should be divided every three years, either in late March or early April.
After the lowdown on cultivation we were treated to slide show. I managed to make a note in the dark of the plants which particularly appealed to me. These included :
Vivace - red
Dauerbrenner - yes,you guessed right - red !
Ruby Tuesday - red and my must have!
Walhorn - new to the U.K. and again red. Notice a pattern?
What does this say about me ? Once again I am steering away from yellows and oranges even in the gloom. However I surprised myself and came home with my first helenium, an unexpected gift in September - Helenium Sahin's Early Flowerer. According to 'Special Perennials' -"The flower colour is variable from reddish-orange in hot weather through to egg-yolk yellow in cool weather." You can see its flowers in the photo at the top of the page.
I hope to add one or two more heleniums before too long in my effort to extend late summer/early autumn colour and interest in my garden, something it sadly lacks at the moment. I have not told himself yet that I would like to visit the nursery and its garden which opens under the National Gardens Scheme next year. The nursery also attends a number of plant fairs especially in the north west of England. For those of you who are too far away 'Special Perennials' offers a mail order service and its brilliant online catalogue is a useful resource, especially the garden diary and growing guides.