Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine
Heleniums are popular once again with gardeners and with good reason, writes David Overend.
For real heat and a blazing vibrancy, heleniums such as the variety “Waldtraut”, which looks so hot that it could almost be used to heat the house in winter, are now one of the brightest and best-loved blooms of late summer and autumn. Bees love them, using the flowers’ domed centres as landing pads from which to feast on nectar.
Heleniums, which for some strange reason fell from grace during the second quarter of the last century, are now a buzz word for insects and discerning gardeners.
Numerous new varieties from the Continent have helped to revive interest in sun-lovers, and the aforementioned “Waldtraut”, with its intense orangeness, is the favourite of a new generation of gardeners who have come to rely on it to provide long-lasting interest year after year.
At 120cm (4ft) high, it fits in remarkably well at the middle or back of the border, and, when packed together, doesn’t normally need staking.
It looks fantastic planted in bold drifts. Plants usually take a year to acclimatise to their home, so don’t expect newly-planted specimens to reach their full height until year two.
For something slightly shorter, there’s the yellow H “Double Trouble”, which starts to flower in July and which can still be blooming until the first frost. Its flowers have a distinctive yellow cone sitting on top of 24in-high stems. Plant in a sunny spot and it should put on a wonderful show.
Equally stunning is the red H “Ruby Tuesday” which produces masses of small, dark-red, daisy-like blooms. Because it grows to just half the height of “Waldtraut”, this variety is best grown towards the middle or front of a mixed border or even in a container.
And that’s why I have just planted both in my own garden. Another reason is that they were both purchased from Barnsdale, in Rutland, the home of one of the finest presenters of Gardeners’ World, Geoff Hamilton (more about that in future editions of The Yorkshire Post).
To propagate heleniums, divide established clumps every two or three years in spring. Dividing in autumn isn’t such a good idea as the small plants produced tend to die during the winter.
Heleniums look a bit like small sunflowers, and in some parts of the world they are actually known as the swamp sunflower – and sneezeweed because their leaves were once used to make snuff. But whatever you call them, they are wonderful flowers.