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Plant Some Helenium For Showy Late-Summer Blooms (And To... Induce Sneezes?)

A yellow flower
Helenium is nearly-drought tolerant and use to be harvested, dried and made into a powder to induce sneezing, if you're into that kind of thing.

Abundant, multi-flowering helenium is hardy to Zone 3 and nearly drought-tolerant. Known by its common name,sneeze weed, this plant used to be harvested, dried and then made into a powder which some people then used as snuff to promote sneezing!

The thought was this would help rid the body of a cold and also, some evil spirits for good measure. Plant some in your perennial gardens now and they will show their blooms right through till the first frost.

The helenium is a traditional, native plant. They are tough and hardy and come in many varieties, with each plant growing 2-3 feet tall. These plants are great for your garden, because as other blooms are beginning to fade in late summer, helenium is really begin to put on a show. The flowers are about an inch in diameter and they are plentiful and colorful, often in bright yellow or burnt orange.

Helenium also pairs well with other late-summer and fall bloomers like sedum, asters and echinacea. These plants are clumping, meaning they won't spread and take over your garden. Plus, after three to five years, you can divide up the clump and spread them out to grow more.

This plant will also attract butterflies, beneficial insects and bees, but not deer!

Q: I've got a maturing tomato plant in a super-large pot. I've kept it watered, but now the leaves are curling up as though they've dried out. I don't see any sign of bugs. Can I save it? I have two other pots in the same area. Will they catch whatever is happening? — Diane, in Burlington

The leaves curling is probably due to hot weather and not enough water. It's tough to keep container gardens well-watered, so that could be why the leaves curled. Another possibility is that it's due to powdery mildew.

The way to tell is to unfurl a leaf on your tomato plant and see if there is yellow coloring inside. If yes, you can treat this by mixing up a solution of one tablespoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of hortiulcural oil from a garden center, then add that to water and spray the leaves.

Q: I've got a delightful male/female pair of actinidia arguta, or hardy kiwi. And I'm wondering about the timetable and the best chances for propagation. — Jeff, in Fairfield

Yes, you can take cuttings from your hardy kiwi, and now is a good time to do it, as the wood is still green but not too woody just yet. Go about 6-8 inches from the tip and cut that, usually right below where the leaves are. Strip off bottom leaves and leave a set of leaves on the top.

Once you've done that, dip the clippings into a rooting-hormone powder and put them in a container with potting soil. Keep the clippings misted and let them hang out in a bright, warm room but not in direct sun. In about six to eight weeks, they should start rooting, then next spring, you can pop them in the ground! 

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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