it has been a dry fall, and the black gums and early maples are just
beginning to turn color. the trees have suffered from the dry july and
august heat spell. some mid-aged red oaks look dead- leaves going from
green to brown in a week. a few showers along have kept the yard nice
and the bonsai happy, but the main show in my yard right now is a huge
bed of 7′ tall swamp sunflowers. the multiple small blooms are one of the
most brilliant colors of the entire flowering year and in this golden october
light, the mass of bright ocher can be almost blinding!
swamp sunflowers are heliopsis and are grouped with the daisy family. there
is a wild yellow sun flower growing on the roadsides that looks quite similar, but is just 3′ tall. they are called heleniums and are related to asters. both names come from the greek “helios” meaning sun. heliopsis is a definite sun-lover, at least 6-7 hours daily.
my bed gets all day sun – a glowing island of bright yellow in the middle of the lawn.
heliopsis prefers a moist, swampy environment, but is easily grown anywhere with a regular weekly soaking during summer and early fall. a little fertilizer [some
bonemeal or bulb-type] and plenty of water, and they can hit 12′ – they spread
like wildfire …my 20′ oval bed came from a gallon pot at the garden club plant sale and swap, years ago.
heliopsis need almost no work after planting. they are better massed in a single large bed. mowing keeps their spreading habit under control and within a mixed bed their rhizomes would quickly take over. certainly the dramatic effect of their burst of color needs no companion flowers. the eye is unavoidably drawn to their brightness. the blooming period is enjoyed for almost three weeks, nature’s lovely
gift in the middle of a browning month, before the autumn leaf color begins. swamp sunflowers against the impossibly blue sky are incomparable!
i remember the little lady saying “you’re going to hate me for this..”
it has been 17 years, but i still couldn’t thank her enough!