Monday, August 24, 2015

Heliopsis Summer Nights

At long last, a Heliantheae that I can live with.  I once thought that Helianthus maximilliana was the answer to my drought-stricken, Kansas sunflower-like dreams, and I sought them out wherever I ventured.  I've grown, and still grow Helianthus maximilliana 'Lemon Yellow' and 'Santa Fe', but they tend to out-compete anything in their vicinity, smothering less aggressive plants.  I keep eliminating clumps and moving them elsewhere.  One of my latest attempts to use them in the garden was to create an ornamental grass + H. maximilliana bed, in the mistaken notion that the ornamental grass clumps could hold their own amongst the H. maximilliana.  Boy, was I ever wrong.

Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’, in contrast, is a much better-behaved garden guest, lending its dark green foliage as backdrop in the early summer, and then livening up the action in Autumn with bright yellow daisy faces and maroon stems.   My 'Summer Nights' seems to be pest-free and at maturity stands about 3 foot tall and 3 feet around.  It is a good perennial for a medium-sized border, and it is creating a good display with the ornamental grasses behind it.  It slouches a little but doesn't spread, a model of grace and good intentions.

If only they had named it something besides the unfortunate 'Summer Nights'.  Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of the song "Summer Nights", from the movie Grease, which leads my hyperactive mind to the vocalists of the song, Olivia Newton John and John Travolta.  I can agree, like other boys who were teenagers in the '70's, that Olivia Newton John has a certain appeal, but I've never been a John Travolta fan.  So I see the plant and I end up with John Travolta singing in my head for a few hours, over and over.  Thus, I always am impressed at first glance by this plant but walk away with a slightly sour expression that the plant doesn't deserve.  "Summer dreams, ripped at the seams, but oh, those 'Summer Nights'!"  

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