My intention this spring was to keep the front yard a little more organized and really put my foot down against the reseeders which took over last summer….. but then the rest of the world happened and just like many good intentions my organization theme fell to the wayside. This year rudbeckias took over.
For as much as I like the softer yellows, and for as summery a tint golden yellow is, bright gold is probably one of my least favorite flower colors. The golden takeover of the front garden really goes against any design theory I have for this bed and I suppose if I were of the more controlling type it would cause me a little mental turmoil but I think I’m ok with the brightness. It helps bring a little sun to what’s so far been a pretty wet and ‘pearly’ summer.
A casual passerby might think things look well under control and maybe even close to well tended, but just inside the bed turmoil reigns. Here the inner section was supposed to be a restful patch of dark leaves canna…. which it’s not… because too many ‘good enough’ plants came up and the gardener just didn’t have the heart to pull them out. It worked out for the best though, the variety of green centered and brown eyed rudbeckia which grew is a nice tradeoff (as long as you can continue to ignore the unplanted cannas sitting on the driveway).
There used to be a greater variety of darker shades mixed in with the straight gold daisies but over the last few years I’ve tended to pull the browned eyed versions. They seem more prone to mildew in my garden and rather than look at that I just pull them and send them to the compost before their seed ripens.
A week or two ago would have been a good time to seed out a few zinnias to fill in for when I get tired of the fading rudbeckias but all the rain seems to have drowned my seedling tray, so we’ll see what happens now. Fortunately there are always volunteers willing to step up. Here are a few sunflowers coming along (in a totally inappropriate spot) and I know a few verbena bonariensis seedlings could be found elsewhere.
The entire border hasn’t been given over to gold. Here’s a now classic combination of Perovskia, Echinacea, and ‘Karl Foerster” feather reed grass made famous back in the ’90s by the Washington DC based design team of Oehme, Van Sweden. They were one of the pioneers in publicizing the ‘New American’ prairie style planting style which moved American design away from lawns and English style gardens to a more relaxed look filled with lower maintenance swaths of color and forms which sway in the summer breeze.
Coneflowers also anchor the far end of the bed, and the golden rudbeckias haven’t quite conquered this far down the line.
The black eyes Susans which grow in this front border are nearly all the tetraploid version of America’s native Rudbeckia hirta, and for plant geeks such as myself the history of these plants is one of those cool wintertime stories which make gardening just that much more interesting. A version of the story can be found by clicking here, but the short summertime summary involves Dr. Blakeslee of Massachusetts’s Smith College treating seed of the native rudbeckia with the genetics altering chemical colchicine and doubling their chromosome count. Eventually David Burpee got a hold of the new race of flowers and set his company to work refining and selecting for more colors and forms, and in 1957 introduced the plants as we know them today. The tetraploid version is bright and big and bold, but the normal diploid Rudbeckia hirta still has its fans for its daintier, summertime wildflower look.
Rudbeckia hirta comes in two basic forms, the regular and the larger tetraploid version. They’re both short lived perennials which may bloom the first year or may die after blooming, depending on their mood, but they’re both far from troublesome. Don’t get this Susan mixed up with the truly perennial, clump forming Rudbeckia fulgida which is just starting to come into bloom now. This one (usually grown as the ‘Goldsturm’ version, another Oehm,Van Sweden favorite as well as Karl Foerster introduction) is another indestructible rudbeckia but for me it’s just too much of a perennial commitment to gold 🙂
So there you have it, the glory of gloriosa daisies in the garden of a gardener who doesn’t like gold. Some will surely point out that I’m in gold loving denial, but daisies and gold are completely common and unrefined and I’m going to try and claim it was against my will and better taste that they took over this summer. Either that or I just don’t care what good taste and garden trends dictate!
Enjoy summer 🙂