Farewell, Woodland Sunflower
The Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus) in the back garden is no more. It was growing in a little bed I carved out along the brick path to the alley gate that Judy and I built.
Woodland Sunflower is one of very few sunflowers that does not need full sun or something close. I was tempted by the catalogue’s promise of large yellow flowers brightening up areas of dappled shade. Woodland Sunflower’s performance was never all that impressive, though.
There wasn’t much of a “wow” factor in the flower display. Plus, the stems were rather weak and tended to flop even after cutting back. I suppose the shade may have been a little too dappled, but still.
Nevertheless, for at least six years Woodland Sunflower came up and bloomed reliably. Until this year, when just a few stems came up, so that the Woodland Sunflower bed looks like this.
There are some weeds and an invasive shrub honeysuckle trying to establish themselves, and that’s about it.
What happened? Might have been last year’s drought, because this spot got virtually no supplemental watering. Also, sunflowers are allopathic (that is, they use chemicals to inhibit the growth of other plants), and I have heard the theory that over time they will actually poison themselves if kept in the same space.
In any case, the real question is: what am I going to plant in this little bed now? I’d like to grow some compact shrubs like Itea virginica ‘Little Henry’. However, Judy is likely to veto any shrub. If I plant perennials, I want it to be something that does not require staking or cutting back. Maybe Bleeding Heart (Lamprocampnos spectabilis) with some ferns? Epimediums?
It’s a spot with dappled shade, can get kind of dry in a hot summer but also gets lots of water in spring because of how the garden drains.
Anybody have any suggestions? Also, what am I going to put in this spot during the summer if I don’t plant anything permanent before fall? Maybe wood chips with some containers? Also, has anybody had a different experience with Woodland Sunflower?