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“Prune in June” – Sneezeweed

Quick one today as I continue with my 2nd year of doing the “Prune in June” series.
I cut back one Sneezeweed (Helenium) by 1/2 in mid June last year hoping it would bloom without falling over. Here is that plant a few weeks later:  
After further review, this was due to really poor drainage in this spot more than anything else.
Another Sneezeweed that was cut back by 1/2 bloomed at a much smaller height and did manage to stay upright.
A third plant was left untouched but had sufficient support when it bloomed at close to four feet tall.
Now we fast forward to 2013. 
The Sneeezeweed that was located in poor drainage has been moved to a new spot, chowed down multiple times by a family of rabbits and will not be part of this pruning experiment.
The other two have been cut back by 1/2 a few weeks later than last year:    

Now we kick back and wait.
John 

“Prune in June” – Helenium (Sneezeweed) UPDATE

Back in the middle of June, I had written about my pruning experiment with my three Sneezeweed plants. I was closely following the advice of the legendary “plantswoman” Tracy DiSabato-Aust by pruning back in June for size control. 
Today, I will give you an update on all three plants as I know you all have been anxiously awaiting the results.
Sneezeweed #1 – cut back by 1/2 in June as seen below:    
And how it looks today:

Blooming has clearly been delayed and so far so good on how it is holding up and not flopping.

Of course, the real test is once the blooms explode in the next few weeks.

**Quick note: Please ignore the ugly legs on this one; they are actually covered by another plant but you cannot tell by this photo. Pinky swear.

Sneezeweed #2 – This one was pruned back in June naturally by some creature one night, so I left it alone as is. Ultimately, it was at the same size as #1 after it was pruned:

And how friggin wonderful it looks today:

This one clearly bloomed earlier than #1 and immediately collapsed under all of it’s bloomage. On the surface, this makes no sense when compared to #1.

But after some detective work, the roots of this one were inundated with water and it was more exposed to the huge rains and winds we’ve had the past few weeks.

This one will be relocated in the near future.

Sneezeweed #3 – This one was left untouched back in June with the thought being it would be sufficiently supported by its neighboring plants:  

So far so good, as the blooms have appeared and it is still standing at attention:

As the blooms continue to multiply we’ll see if it still remains upright. Fingers are double crossed.

I’ll hold off on the final analysis for a few more weeks as this situation is still fluid.

Until then …

“Prune in June” – Helenium (Sneezeweed)

Well hello there, and welcome to part three of my beyond riveting “Prune in June” series. Prepare yourself for some more hardcore pruning experimentation. Good times.

Previously, we covered Boltonia (False aster) and Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) and today, we will take a look at Helenium autumnale, also known as Sneezeweed: 

I love this native perennial as it has bloomed profusely for me for years at the end of summer and into early fall. BUT (and this is a big but) they almost always topple over once they are in full bloom, which makes them a bit difficult to truly enjoy:

I’ve known for years that these plants need to be cut back or pruned throughout the growing season to attempt to control the height and ultimately prevent them from falling over. Tracy DiSabato-Aust told me so, but for reasons unknown, I’ve never heeded that advice.

Because I’m dumb.

But no more my friends.

Here’s what one of my sneezeweed plants looked like pre-haircut:

And here is the same plant cut down by half:

Ms. DiSabato-Aust suggests cutting back sneezeweed by a 1/2 to 2/3 in mid-June so I did just that.

Other options are to cut the plants back to 12 inches in mid-July which results in plants half their normal size and a delay in bloom of about six weeks. I’m considering this option on another sneezeweed plant so more to come on that.

Also, plants that were previously pruned for height control can have 4 to 6 inches cut off the tips when in bud to delay flowering by a week or two. I’ll have to think about doing this as well but most likely, I’ll chicken out … we’ll see.

For contrasting purposes, here is another sneezeweed that was “deer pruned” a few weeks ago so I am going to leave it as is to see if the more drastic pruning provides better results. Those deer are just so great with all their helpful pruning:

And just because I am a good guy and want nothing more than to educate you, here is an unpruned plant that will remain unpruned. It does get some support from surrounding plants but most likely, it will fall as it usually does. But that’s OK, I am willing to sacrifice for the greater good:

So there you have it, another pruning adventure out in my garden. I am sure you are all dying to see the results and I will give you those results along the way.

Because I care about my readers.

John

Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed)

I have an unfinished garden bed on the side of my home that is rarely ever visited by anyone other than myself and maybe some hungry deer. I have vowed to finish it and have a ton of paper scraps of rough sketches to prove it.

For now though, it serves as the minor league stadium for the plants that are “stored” there until they prove themselves worthy of a promotion to the “big leagues”. This bed gets slammed with heavy winds, pounded by afternoon sun and visited frequently by the critters. Like my boy Frank Sinatra would sing “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.” or something like that. Throughout the spring and summer, I’ll move the survivors from this hidden bed to more prominent locations.

This past weekend, all of the Helenium autumnale (sneezeweed) were rewarded for their awesomeness and moved to the back bed surrounding my deck:

This was an easy decision as I officially gave up on all of my Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan). Their foliage looked awful by mid-summer, they re-seeded uncontrollably each year and truthfully, I was just bored with them.

So out with the old and in with the new … and more interesting:  

I’ve only had the sneezeweed plants for a little over a year, but they bloomed magically only after being in the ground for a few months:

The only problem I had was that they got too tall by August and began to flop. If you look closely in the photo below, you can see my poor attempt at trying to stake this plant:  

The flopping issue can be controlled by simply cutting the plants back now (mid June) so they reach a height closer to 3 feet rather than their maximum of 4 or 5 feet. I decided I would test this cutting back theory so I kept one as is when I transplanted it:  

And cut back another by about 12″:

I’ll be sure to monitor this situation as the season progresses and I’m crossing my fingers that the yellow leaves in the two photos above are simply transplant shock. Like a dope, I moved these in the middle of a hot and dry Summer day. 
Before I go, here are some quick facts about Helenium (sneezeweed):
  • Zone 3-8
  • Prefers full sun
  • Blooms late Summer into Fall
  • A US native found in moist soil along streams/ponds and in moist meadows
  • Reaches 3-5 feet tall with a spread of 2-3 feet
  • The origin of the name sneezeweed – dried leaves of this plant were used to make “snuff” which causes sneezing which in turn fights off evil spirits
  • The origin of the name Helenium – believed to refer to Helen of Troy and the fact that this plant would flower wherever her tears would hit the ground

Grats!

John            

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    Plants I expect big things from this year

    More than a few times this winter I have reviewed all of my garden photos in a “slide show” as a means to get myself all pumped up for the spring/summer. Each time, there are certain plants that have me dreaming big when they pop up on the screen. These are plants that are only a year or two old and have yet to put on their best show.

    I’d like to share my optimism with you today and please, share any experiences you may have had with any of these. Just make sure you lie to me if there is anything negative; I’m on too much of a high right now to be brought back down to reality.

    I purchased a bunch of Helenium autumnale at a native plant sale last spring and I was blessed with a never ending amount of blooms in late summer.

    But, I did a poor job of pruning for height control and left these in an exposed location so they toppled over rather easily. With a new locale and a pruning plan, I expect monstrous results from these natives this summer.

    Another native, Amsonia tabernaemontana (Eastern bluestar), was planted two years ago and has not only remain untouched by the deer (due to it’s sap on the leaves) but has also survived in a spot that remains wet at times. However, it has yet to bloom real well and it’s biggest selling point, the yellow, smoke-like fall foliage has not been there as expected. So, everyone say it with me, this is the year to take it to the next level.

    I was happy to get a few blooms on a few different Siberian Iris ‘Snow Queen’ last spring and hope to double that output this spring. Isn’t she a beauty?

    I loaded up on Chasmanthium Latifolium (or as you common folk call them, northern sea oats) in the Fall of 2009 and they have not disappointed. They worked from spring to late Fall and I would love more of the same this year, even some reseeding is OK (should I be careful what I wish for?).    

    I am a sucker for foliage, especially anything in the red/maroon/scarlet family and I planted a few Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ late last summer. I honestly could skip on the blooms as long as the foliage looks good all season. I liked how they stood out as somewhat of a focal point and contrasted real well with all of the other green foliage. Bigger and badder this year please.

    Miscanthus ‘Super Stripe’ was slow to grow last year but damn, I love that variegation. Let’s agree to double in size this year OK?    

    Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’ gets real big and can flop but I’m not scared. I have two planted where they can get as big as they want and I’ll deal with the floppiness if necessary.  

    Echinacaea ‘Fragrant Angel’ – beautiful blooms and beautiful scent – just want MORE MORE AND MORE.  

    I know that Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ will struggle in my poor draining soil and will be nibbled by the deer but I have to have it. So, I plan on growing it in a large container as a specimen on my deck. That foliage is sweet and hopefully this year it gets close to “specimen” size.  

    And last but not least, we have Baptisia ‘Twilite Prairieblues’ which had some blooms last year that were stunning. From all indications, I should expect the plants to at least double in size and produce a lot more blooms this year and that my friends, would friggin rule! 

    Good night and welcome back to the work week.

    ONG

    The advantages of native plants

    I must admit, I have a very large lawn on my property. It takes me close to two hours a week to cut it during the growing season. Not exactly environmentally friendly, eh? Before you beat me down, I must tell you I never water it, never fertilize it and have slowly been chipping away at removing it by creating new garden beds. While a lawn provides a great play space for the kids and the green swath looks pretty damn nice in the spring, I am no longer much of a fan. The effort involved to maintain it is not worth it and for a plant lover like me, it really represents more of an opportunity to further bankrupt myself and create more garden beds.

    Which leads me to a discussion on native plants. A native plant can be best defined as: a plant that occurs naturally in the place where it evolved (I took that definition from wildflower.org). There are numerous advantages to using native plants in the landscape (and you will notice almost all are exactly the opposite of what it takes to maintain a lawn):

    • Drought tolerance 
    • Minimal need for fertilizer
    • No need for pesticides
    • With minimal fertilizer/pesticides – no run-off into the water supply 
    • Disease tolerant
    • Attracts wildlife, beneficial bugs and encourages biodiversity
    • Low cost to purchase natives
    • Because natives are in their natural environment, their size and cooperation with neighboring plants is much more predictable and makes design/planning much easier.                

    I didn’t intend for today’s post to be about native plants but as I was reviewing my plant photos from this prior year, I noticed how many of the “successes” were native plants. Hence, where I ended up with this post. Here are some of my native plants and please, share some of the natives you’ve had success with in the comments section so I can pretend I knew about them all along:   

    Sneezeweed – Helenium autumnale 


    Blue cardinal flower – Lobelia siphilitica

    Turtlehead – Chelone glabra 

    Purple coneflower – Echinacea purpurea

    Garden Phlox – Phlox paniculata ‘David’

    Boltonia asteroides ‘Pink Beauty’

    When the native plant sales begin here in New Jersey around the middle of May, I begin my plan of attack and this upcoming year will be no different. I’ll just need to clear more lawn to fit in more of these low maintenance gems.

    Go native or go home!
    ONG 

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