Heliopsis Loraine Sunshine

Chasing after love

I am in love!

Again.

God forbid I lust after one who is not my husband, but John is safe. My heart yearns after a plant genus called Heliopsis with high hopes my passion will not be in vain for this false sunflower.

Sunflowers: the very essence of high summer with their large, round faces and cheery disposition. But sadly, they disappear at the end of the season, only re-appearing the next year if the gardener has been on the ball and sowed fresh seed at the right time.

Not so with false sunflowers for they are perennial. Admittedly, their flowers are minuscule next to those of annual sunflowers in the Helianthus genus. (Think ox-eye daisy – their other common name.) But what the flowers lack in size, they more than makeup for in a bloom period stretching from about mid-June through to October. Pure sunshine.

My love for heliopsis all started with the only one we (currently) have in our garden: Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Helhan,’ sold under the trademark name of Loraine Sunshine. This plant gives a double dose of sun through its bright yellow flowers and strong foliage variegation…pure white leaves with vivid green veining. At a height of two and a half to three feet, this plant stands out splendidly in a crowded garden bed.

It is drought tolerant, needing little water once established, and very accepting of poorer soil conditions, although the plant will be shorter, more compact in this soil type. Allow for good air circulation to prevent powdery mildew and keep an eye open for aphids…both mentioned as possible problems. Nothing has troubled our plant thus far.

The species, Heliopsis helianthoides (hee-lee-OP-sis hee-lan-an-THOY-deez), is a North American wildflower, native to the eastern and central regions of Canada and the United States. It grows naturally in deciduous wooded areas, open plains, and often sprouts up in roadside ditches. The growth habit is rhizomatous and erect – as tall as five feet.

There are a number of Heliopsis cultivars on the market now. ‘Sunstruck’ is very similar to Loraine Sunshine but shorter at about eighteen inches tall and with slightly darker yellow flowers. ‘Double Sunstruck’ is the same as ‘Sunstruck’, but its flowers are double as the name implies.

‘Summer Nights’ is the one which really peaked my interest with its red stems, a red-tinge on green leaves, height to four feet tall, and irresistible deep mahogany centres in its golden yellow flowers. I truly lust.

Switching to another plant species, who can deny the magnificence of the yucca flowers currently in bloom? I am not typically a rabid fan of white flowers because the tendency is for many of them to turn a muddy brown colour once they are past their prime. However, I do make an exception for yucca flowers. The glorious, five-foot tall spire adorned with numerous individual flowers rising like a scepter out of a clump of stiff, spiky leaves is nothing short of breath-taking.

And no one can deny the yucca’s ability to handle the tough, drought conditions in our summer gardens these past years. Really, about the only “bad trait” I have encountered in our yuccas is their habit for harbouring yellow jackets over the winter, deep within the leaf clumps. An unpleasant surprise when I clean out the maple leaves – usually by gloved hand so as to get into the heart of the clump. Still, I do have a love for this plant in spite of that.

Oh, I could go on and on about my various love affairs: hostas, weigela, spiraea, herbs, geraniums, ferns. But honestly, there is no brighter light adorning the landscape than my husband. He remains the true love of my life as we celebrate the twentieth year of our garden.

For more about Heliopsis, visit my website: duchessofdirt.ca.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek.

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