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Sunny sneezeweed

Time to take a new look at an old standard

The search for the perfect plant keeps me trying new varieties every year. Without fail, I am lured by beautiful flowers, a long bloom time, or other characteristics that beg me to bring them home for a trial run in my garden.

COMMON SNEEZEWEEDS MAKE GREAT CUT FLOWERS, which is why I’ve always liked them. But over the last few years my garden was too small and space was at a premium, so this traditionally big perennial, Helenium autumnale, was always left out. Today is a new day, so I am learning to love sneezeweeds again.

‘MARDI GRAS,’ WITH ITS YELLOW TO ORANGE FLOWERS, was the first variety I tried. It is tall, growing 30 to 40 inches, and has strong stems that are easy to cut and arrange in a vase. Then ‘Fuego’ sneezeweed caught my eye and made its way home into my garden.

FUEGO SNEEZEWEED HAS A MORE COMPACT SHAPE, shown here, than most types, reaching only 18 to 24 inches high. Because of its size, Fuego can be used in a variety of locations, including the front of a perennial border and in container gardens. It blooms in the summer and the bloom sequence can last for almost three months. Its red, orange, and yellow petals look almost hand painted.

SNEEZEWEEDS ARE ADAPTABLE, LIKE FULL SUN, and adequately moist but well-drained soil. They don’t need an extremely fertile soil and can perform well without any additional fertilization. Though they have very few pest problems, powdery mildew can be an issue, particularly on the older varieties. The newer varieties seem to be more resistant.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A PERENNIAL FLOWER to try this year, plant a sneezeweed variety. You will be rewarded with stunningly beautiful and prolific flowers from late June to September.

Shelly Nold for the January 2015 issue

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