Monday 23 April 2018

Gardening: Helen flower bolsters late-flowering borders

BEAUTIFUL: Red-flushed yellow helenium flowers
BEAUTIFUL: Red-flushed yellow helenium flowers

Gerry Daly

The Helen flower or helenium is a winner for late summer and early autumn. It has already been in flower since July, at least some of the early flowering kinds have, such as the beautiful 'Sahin's Early Flowerer' with splashed marmalade and red flowers, and a dark brown central disc. Helenium is native to North America and reaches about chest-high, so it has been crossed with shorter species to make it more of a good garden size at 60 to 120cm, depending on variety. It is a fairly simple daisy-type flower, interesting, but not a star plant. It is more of a filler and colour provider, an important role too.

Perfect in a mixed border with perennials or shrubs, it can be planted in clumps repeated along a border to build up a lively colour effect. It can keep flowering through July and September, providing great colour for very little effort. The range of colour in helenium is red, orange, copper and yellow. The flowers vary somewhat in shape and size but they are all much the same in structure - daisies with a central disc that is normally brown or yellow.

An interesting feature of helenium is the pattern of variation in the flowers of many varieties. The petals can be splashed to varying degrees with yellow or red, some kinds are mostly yellow with red splashes and some are red-brown with yellow splashes.

It can flop about and lean on other plants and the flowers still turn up to the sunlight. Easy to grow, helenium is very hardy and not damaged by frost. There are dozens of colour variations and different sizes. 'Moerheim Beauty' is one of the old kinds, coppery red and early to flower. 'Bressingham Gold' is 90cm, early to flower with yellow flowers, marked with brown. 'Waldtraut' is spangled orange, red and yellow. 'Rotgold' is red and yellow in varying degrees, about 1.2 metres tall and late-summer flowering.

'Wyndley' is smaller at about 80cm with yellow flowers, splashed dark-orange, a pretty variety. 'Goldrausch' is tall, 1.5 metres, with yellow flowers, splashed brown and late to flower. 'Septemberfuchs' is tall, late flowering with very bright orange-red flowers, yellow-splashed, a lovely variety. By choosing late flowering kinds as well as earlier ones, the season is extended. Plant in autumn or spring in a sunny spot in soil that does not dry out, but not too rich, or they will need staking. Divide the clumps every few years to maintain vigour, discarding the older parts.

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