Tag Archives: sneezeweed

Tour of the Garden – 8/24/17

The Grasses

What else would I lead with at this time of year? Duh. I’m well aware that my last post featured Flame Grass, but I couldn’t resist featuring it yet again. Those silvery blooms blowing in the wind bring the garden to life. Once that green foliage color turns every imaginable shade of orange, it will be sensory overload.

 

Can you say focal point? Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is killer right now. While I love it massed for maximum effect, it can hold its own on its own. While the flowers or inflorescence are a show-stopper, give me the sturdy blue stems any day of the week. Even on a Monday.

 

Ho-hum, another Panicum ‘Northwind’ pic.

 

The red is really shining through on Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’. These grasses are incredibly fool-proof and have been for over a decade now.

 

Multiple grasses are anchoring this garden scene. I’ll say it again, as ubiquitous as it may be, the upright and tan blooms of Karl Foerster grass add so much to the late summer garden. Massed or dotted throughout the garden, it doesn’t matter. It works and I won’t stop using it any time soon.

 

Just a different Instagram filter for a different vibe.

 

Fine, you win

I cut it down to the ground in early spring. I cut it back again in June. I chopped off a ton of the branches after they were infested with Japanese beetles.

It doesn’t matter. This Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ (Dappled Willow) just keeps growing and growing. If I’m being honest, I’m bored with it but I can’t imagine trying to remove it.

Oh well.

 

Not looking good

All of my Achillea (Yarrow) ‘Moonwalker’ look like this or worse. The funny thing is they thrived earlier in the summer like never before.

 

I told myself I wouldn’t dabble in red-blooming Lobelias any longer. They have never escaped the jaws of the deer or the rabbits. Just when all 5 were starting to look great while blooming together, this happened. I even sprayed the bastards with Deer Off the night before.

I’m done.

 

You know I love me some Sneezeweed ‘Mariachi Series’. But for the first time since I’ve planted them, they are toppling over. It may have been due to a recent deluge of rain so I’ll do my best to remain patient.

 

Still chasing

Yes, still awkwardly running after each and every Monarch butterfly.

 

Autumn has arrived

This is the Viburnum that I ceremoniously moved to a new location in the garden a few weeks back. I’m sure the red leaves are due to the stress I put on it and not the fact that fall has come a few weeks to early. Either way, that color is solid and I have big hopes for the future as it matures.

But even better is the sign of all of those berries. This is a Viburnum dentatum ‘All That Glitters’ which requires ‘All That Glows’ as a pollinator. I have both planted close to each other and I’m assuming this is the result of that pollination. They should turn purple in color in the coming weeks.

 

All of my Itea (Virginia Sweetspire) turn red prematurely in August. This is the dwarf cultivar ‘Little Henry’ which I’m allowing to sucker like mad in a very wet part of the garden.

 

While it may be slight, you can start to see the color transformation in the foliage of the Amsonia.

Amsonia tabernaemontana

Amsonia hubrichtii

 

The Red Twig Dogwood just displayed its red stems for the first time this week. And for those curious, the leaf damage was from Japanese beetles a few weeks back.

 

Ready to shine

The Eupatorium ‘Wayside’ (Hardy Ageratum) are starting to bloom.

But have they ever taken over.

So many of you warned me of this and it is coming to fruition. It may be OK this year, but I see a problem with the years to come. I’ll need to jump on this soon to prevent a total takeover.

 

Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ is rounding into form and they are all inundated with bees.

 

Helenium (Sneezweed) has popped up all over my garden where I least expected it and I’m good with that. That is until it falls over when the many flowers emerge at once.

 

They may not “shine” but Chelone lyonii (Turtlehead) ‘Hot Lips’ adds a nice dash of color in late summer.

 

My continuing use of annuals

I’ve added Heliotrope …

… and Persian Shield

… and I must admit I might be coming around even more on using annuals. As many of you know, I’ve rarely used annuals in the garden outside of containers but finally embraced them this year. I’m getting the “fill-in” functionality and long bursts of color. While I prefer to grow over time with my plants, I may be finally crossing the dark side.

 

I love you, but don’t know where to go with you

I am like totally in love with Aralia ‘Sun King’.

Look at that foliage.

Problem is I have no room for it in my garden. All of my shaded areas are accounted for and even if I made room, I worry about the deer destroying it.

So for now, I’m digging it in a container, shaded on my front porch, and will do my best to overwinter it in the container.

 

 

Helenium (Sneezeweed) ‘Mariachi Series’

There are very few people in my “circle” who give a rat’s ass about my garden. I know, sad but true.

But I’ll be fine.

Every once in a while, however, a visitor will ask to tour my garden. You would think I’d be all pumped up, but no.

My first instinct is to say “Oh hell no.” Those massive weeds hidden on the side of the house will be exposed. All areas of the garden currently “under construction” will need to be explained away. Can’t we just walk through this blog where all looks perfect? Where I can control what you can and cannot see.

Eventually I will relent and take the visitor by the hand into my little private world of plants. But before any tour commences, I make sure I answer a few questions quietly to myself so I know how to proceed with my visitor.

“When asked ‘what plant is this?’, do I give them the Latin name and sound like a pompous ass or the common name which I actually don’t know in most instances?”

The easiest way to know how to proceed here is to determine the plant knowledge of your visitor. I try and ask them something simple like “What is your favorite plant?” and then study the response. While you may not get all of the necessary intel, it can often be quite telling.

“Do I initiate the walk and the direction it takes or allow my visitor to make that decision?”

I almost always let them take the lead. I like to see if my garden layout and structure naturally leads them where I want them to go. This is where I hope my paths pull them in and make them want to explore what is around the corner.

“Do I allow my visitor to walk IN the garden risking soil compaction or plant stomping or be up front and threaten physical violence should they venture anywhere beyond the lawn?”

I tend to have faith in my visitor and their understanding of garden tour etiquette. However, if it is a dopey male friend, I have no issue laying down the law.

How much is too much information?

This question is ultimately what prompted today’s post. I had originally planned a straight forward piece on a few of my favorite Sneezeweed plants. But then I rememberd back to this past summer when I was walking the garden with a friend who stopped and admired my massing of these Sneezeweed.

“What are these?”

Here were my options for answering:

A. Sneezeweed (common name)

B. Helenium (Latin name)

C. Those are Helenium or Sneezeweed, dwarf in nature and are part of the somewhat newly introduced ‘Mariachi Series’ which includes ‘Sombrero’, ‘Salsa’ and ‘Siesta’.

I answered “C” and lost my visitor’s attention from that point forward.

The lesson here: Always answer “A” and move on.


All kidding aside, I am in love with all of the Helenium ‘Mariachi Series’ plants. They have been thriving for me since year one (three years ago). They bloom profusely all summer into fall, have never been nipped by the deer or rabbits and come back year after year.

Some quick info on these beauties:

  • Size is about 20″ x 24″
  • Survives zone 3-9
  • Prefers full sun
  • Blooms from June to September
  • Likes some moisture but not too wet. Mine have survived a few wet winters to date.

But to really sell these, I’ll allow you to take a look at some photos I’ve taken this past year from summer through fall.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The August Garden

As we hit the midpoint of August and slog through the dog days of summer, I realize that the plants in my garden can be broken down into three different categories:

Fading

Still going strong

Ready to take center stage

I guess these same categories exist throughout all of the gardening “seasons”, but it seems to be at an extreme right now.

And the garden, shocker, reflects life itself. Allow me to pontificate.

With the heat and humidity at what feels like an all time high (I’ll still take it over winter) I some times find myself caving and giving in to the joys of air conditioning. Likewise, so many plants have succumbed to the conditions and have thrown in the towel. No more fighting for that last new bloom or trying to keep up the facade of clean looking foliage. Uncle.

At the same time, there are those plants in my garden that say “f you” to these conditions and keep kicking ass. Not too unlike a certain gardener I know who can’t get enough of the stinging sweat in his eyes, the burning in the calves and easily runs through three t-shirts a day. A gardener who accepts the chuckles from his neighbors and keeps pulling weeds like it was hot yoga.

And then there are those plants who sense the cooler weather is coming and are ramping up for a big time display. There are subtle signs from some and not so subtle signs from others. You can feel their excitement, their turn to take the lead in the play. Fall is their time and they f’n know it. Hopefully my kids feel that same type of energy and excitement as they soon head off to high school and 5th grade. Because all kids feel that way,right?

FADING

No plants better represent the concept of fading than the coneflower. Phenomenal in peak bloom but in my humble opinion, still killer as the pink and yellow and white washes out, turns black and eventually becomes all cone.

coneflower spent

 

white coneflower

 

astilbe coneflower spent

 

Almost all of the Bee Balm blooms are in full fade mode yet still have a presence. That is if you take them in from a distance and ignore the slow takeover of powdery mildew.

bee balm and joe pye

 

Fading Agastache still pulls in the bees and who wants to get in the way of that?

spent agastache

 

STILL GOING STRONG

The dwarf Sneezeweed (‘Mariachi’ series) are still blooming strong and the deer have no interest.

red dwarf sneezeweed

 

orange dwarf sneezeweed

Providing a nice contrast in form and color with the emerging ornamental grasses.

planter bed

 

If it takes surrounding hydrangea by grasses and other deer despising plants, so be it. It has worked and this hydrangea continues to thrive even with the extreme heat of the past few weeks.

hydrangea

 

Veronica ‘Royal Candles’, one of the few plants I cut back religiously, always provides multiple rebloom periods. These were cut back only two weeks ago.

veronica prune

 

veronica sedum bee balm

 

Of course it isn’t all about the flowers and one of my favorite foliage plants right now is Diervilla ‘Cool Splash’. It brightens up one of the few shaded areas in my garden and holds up all spring/summer.

diervilla

 

I have tried for years to find a blue evergreen that would be ignored by the deer and say “no problem” to my clay soil that can sometimes be a bit waterlogged. Some how, Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’ has been the one to take the crown and three years in I am beyond thrilled. Upright, untouched by the deer and very little winter damage has made it a winner.

juniper wichita

 

READY TO TAKE CENTER STAGE

The first signs of bloom on the Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ appeared this week, which is always a reminder that September is fast approaching.

sedum pink

 

Boltonia blooms aplenty are here with plenty more to come. Of course once all blooms are present it will lean over and not be as fun to look at but I’ll be sure to never show you that photo.

boltonia

 

Eupatorium ‘Wayside’ or Hardy Ageratum (but not really an Ageratum) finally survived the winter for me after two previous attempts. It seems to have reseeded more than it actually survived but who can complain. I love the late season color. A fun one to photograph in fall.

eup wayside

 

BONUS – Ornamental Grasses

I kind of like ornamental grasses in case you are new here. You’ve been warned.

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ in full bloom as of this week.

pennisetum

 

penn and joe pye

 

First signs of blooms on Panicum ‘Northwind’.

panicum and joe pye

 

Same goes for Miscanthus ‘purpurascens’ or Flame Grass.

panicum miscanthus blooms

 

Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ and their airy blooms.

panicum rots

 

I “attempted” to rid my garden of all Northern Sea Oats and while there is still a ways to go, I’ve made major progress. Having said that, I can’t deny these NSO that have grown right through an Itea shrub look kind of awesome. Oh well.

sea oats

QOTD: Do you like this time of year in your garden? Why or why not?

 

Garden bliss

Today was one of those magical garden days where I was incapable of thought.

Incapable of planning.

Incapable of finding fault.

Incapable of tinkering and pulling and snipping.

The garden just was and that felt fucking awesome.

I appreciated all that it took for these visitors to make it here and personally thanked them for bringing my garden to life.

butterfly joe pye 2

 

butterfly joe pye

 

joe pye butterfly 2

 

joe pye butterfly

 

I wish I could remember the exact day when I allowed Joe Pye Weed to come into my life. Because that day should be celebrated each year.

joe pye playroom bed

 

playroom bed

 

planter bed

 

There is nothing like the feeling of the sun burning your neck, the dirt under your fingernails and the feeling of warm earth in your fingertips. But it can be eye opening and rewarding to take a step back and enjoy the fruits of your labor every once in a while.

side bed 4

and then stepping back some more …

side bed 3

and some more …

side bed 2

Shit, I created that and it’s kind of great.

When this blissful type of day arrives, I can even tolerate the clashing of colors because they had to bloom their asses off to clash in the first place.

dwarf sneeze

So why not enjoy them for what they are on their own and not sweat how they interact with others. The fleeting nature of flowers/perennials is why we love them so damn much.

dwarf sneeze 2

 

The fading of flowers is part of the process and one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the years. Sure, I could cut the spent blooms to promote new blooms and keep things all tidy and sometimes I’ll do just that. But allowing the blooms to fade gracefully while others take the lead role just feels right. Take yourself out of the equation.

white coneflower

 

coneflower susan

 

And some times plant combos create themselves through some sort of divine intervention. Like this Anemone bloom crawling up inside this Blue Grama Grass. I have no memories of planting this Anemone and have never successfully seen one bloom in my own garden. Now we sit back and enjoy.

blonde ambition anemone

QOTD – Who is better, “Blissful John” or “Let’s take all the fun and enjoyment out of gardening John”? Not that I can control who appears when, but I’m curious just the same.

 

 

 

 

Autumn delivers

Last week I declared that “Fall sucks”. Yes, I proudly own that declaration, yet at the same time, understand the influx of hate mail I received as a result. You don’t “f” with the autumn with certain people. They are a united and angry lot.

But here’s the thing, I don’t dislike the Fall as much as I miss the sweaty tasks associated with Spring and Summer. In fact, I have come to realize I have an unhealthy love of sweating and blister development- who else wants to join me in #gardeningsadomasochism.

Having said that, I can still enjoy what Fall has to offer, even if the thought of winter approaching makes me physically ill.

How good does Panicum ‘Northwind’ look right now?

panicum northwind fall color

panicum northwind fall color2

And Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ as well.

panicum rots

grasses fall color

Sorghastrum ‘Sioux Blue’ looks divine through the railing on my deck.

sorgahstrum fall

And lordy how I love Helenium (Sneezeweed) right now.

helenium3

helenium

helenium2

Some new blooms

Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed): sneezeweed

I’ve struggled with Sneezeweed for a long time now but may have finally found the right location. The ugly “legs” are disguised by other plants in front of them and they have each other for support (three are planted closely to each other).

Because of that, I skipped on cutting them back in June to control their height this year. The true test will be in the next week or so as all of the blooms emerge: 

Chelone lyonii: 

 

Boltonia ‘Pink Beauty’ is another perennial I typically cut back in June to hopefully prevent it from toppling over when blooming in late summer but completely forgot to do so this year. So far so good. Maybe that proactive pruning wasn’t necessary after all: 

Not necessarily newly blooming, but some new visitors I couldn’t be more psyched to see on Asclepias curassavica (Silky Gold Milkweed): monarch2

Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ rounding into form: 

 

Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass): 

 

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’: 

And my very young Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ has thrown up some blooms in its first year (bless her heart): 

This grass will rule over all of the other grasses within the next two years. I am so stoked in anticipation.

“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