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Featured Conservation Plants: March 2016

March 2016:
Helianthus x multiflorus ‘Meteor’

This plant has been the one that has taken a lot of time to identify correctly and was withdrawn from the scheme temporarily while research was undertaken to establish its true identity. Previous growers, group coordinators, national coordinators and nurserymen had identified the plant or plants as H. ‘Happy Days’, H. x multiflorus Anemoneflorus Flore Plena, H. ‘Shall we Dance’, H. ‘Capenoch Star’, H. ‘Capenoch Supreme’ among others but I think you get the picture.

The plant I obtained from the scheme in 2012 grew to just under 2 metres in its first year, flowering profusely from top to bottom with ‘anemone-centred’ yellow flowers approximately 7.5cm diameter in late summer. Needless to say I was delighted with the result as even the unopened buds were extremely attractive.

Looking through past records it appears that two different Helianthus were introduced to the scheme around 2001-2004 and correspondence about the identity of either was inconclusive.

I made enquiries through the RHS as there is no National Collection Holder for Helianthus at present and they gave me a contact for a National Collection Holder in Germany so I wrote to him providing images and descriptions for my plant. He wrote back ruling out H. ’Happy Days’ as that is a shorter and more compact plant despite the fact that the flowers are similar. To add to the confusion further he was confident that my plant was H. x multiflorus ‘Meteor’ - yet another name - and having looked at many images on the internet together with images from an article in a past HPS Journal confirmed my suspicions.

The article in question had appeared in the Autumn 1999 edition [Vol. 21 No. 2] entitled ‘Some Perennial Sunflowers’, and I wasn’t very hopeful that it would help. But to my delight it gave a very thorough investigation of the various cultivars resulting from the authors’ frustration in obtaining many wrongly-named plants. The article was written by Rolf Offenthal and Klauss Kaiser, and it was Mr. Offenthal whom I had originally contacted, via the RHS, and who had informed me that the Conservation Scheme plant was H. x multiflorus ‘Meteor’.

In the article H. ‘Meteor’ is described thus;

“The well-known German nurseryman George Arends from Ronsdorf-Wuppertal discovered an anemone-flowered sport on ‘Soleil d’Or’ in about 1894–5 which he named ‘Meteor’… This cultivar too, later received another name ‘Supreme’ which is invalid. ‘Meteor’ is still among the best Helianthus cultivars.”

Mystery solved and this Helianthus has been reintroduced to the Conservation Scheme as there are just 3 entries for suppliers in the RHS Plant Finder 2015 – a great pity when it is such an excellent plant.

H. x multiflorus ‘Meteor’ can be easily propagated by division and, according to the article mentioned above, should be split regularly as it’s vigour diminishes if it is left in the same place for more than a couple of years. There may be some attack by slugs and snails as new growth emerges in the spring but this does not seem to adversely affect established clumps.

Helen Mount

The Conservation scheme involves HPS members in growing these plants and documenting the best way to grow and propagate them. The plants are distributed across the country with many local groups and individual growers being involved.

The scheme is open to all HPS members. More information about the scheme can be found here.

Since the present scheme started in 1998, we have been successful in conserving over 30 plant varieties that are, in our opinion, all worthy of being grown in British gardens. However, there are still a large number of potentially garden worthy plants in need of conservation.

If you are a interested in making this (or any other of our conservation plants) available on a commercial basis, please contact the National Coordinator.

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