What kind of flower/plant is this?

(Question)

We bought it in the early Spring and planted it in a flower bed with regular garden soil. It was exposed to the sun, when it was shining (not in a shady spot). It has only recently succumbed to the freezing temperatures. We live in Etobicoke, Lakeshore & Islington area. So, it basically lasted from early April to late November.

The flower/petals feel dry to the touch, feels sort of like straw, could pass as a fake flower. The flowers open when it’s sunny & close when it rains or when there is no sun.

When flowers cut, they last forever in a vase indoors. This plant has a very hardy, durable stem & roots.

Do you know what it is? We’d like to get more next year.
Thanks for your time.

 

(Answer)

What you have grown this summer is a lovely annual, the Strawflower (Helichrysum bracteatum), which you’ve described very clearly.  This is the most well-known of a group of flowers known as “everlastings” for the reasons you’ve mentioned – the dry, papery texture of their flowers, their woody durable stems, their long life through summer and into the fall.  These are all hallmarks of Helichrysum bracteatum.  Your photograph shows your plants’ yellow blooms, but strawflowers also come in a vast array of colours from deep red through to coppery orange, yellow, pink and white.   It is great that you were able to find these as plants, but they are also very easy to grow from seed.  They do best in full sun.

As well as being pretty in your flower beds, it won’t surprise you to learn that Helichrysum are fantastic in arrangements of dried flowers as they retain their shape and colour almost indefinitely.  If you harvest the stems when the flowers are only partially open, (when 2 to 3 layers of petals have opened), they continue to open as they dry.  As soon as you pick them, hang them by the stem upside down in small bunches, in a dry, dark, open, airy place as the colour tends to fade if they are dried in the light.

For your interest, here is the Toronto Master Gardeners’ guide to Drought-Tolerant Annuals, in which strawflowers  are mentioned: http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/factsheet/drought-tolerant-annuals-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/