October 23, 2017

Rudbeckia – Grow Your Own Black Eyed Susan!

Rudbeckia

There are not many plants left for cutting in the allotment but one flower the rudbeckia is still flowering its head off, as if it was just planted.  Last weeks heatwave and downpour might have

rudbeckia display
rudbeckia on the allotment

spoiled a few of the older blooms, but it definitely gave the plants a new breath of life and they now have even more buds ready to burst into flower over the next few weeks. It is a complete dual purpose plant being both useful as bedding and an exceptional flower for cutting – I don’t think many other plants can match these characteristics especially at this time of the year:

 

Flower of the week from YOUR garden to YOUR table:   19th Sept. – 25th Sept.

Botanical Name: Rudbeckia:   Common Name: Black Eyed Susan, (Cone Flower).

The cone in the centre of this daisy like flower lead the plant to bear the common name ‘cone flower’. I often used to mistake Rudbeckia for Echinacea which shares the same common name of ‘cone flower’, but I have learnt to differentiate between the two. The Echinacea has a much more prominent cone, often becoming spiky with age after the petals fall off, whilst with the rudbeckia the cone is not so pointed, it does not have spikes  and the top of the cone is not covered with seeds. With the Echinacea  the petals are often reflexed whilst the rudbeckia petals stay relatively straight. The Echinacea is usually pink purple or white petals, whilst the rudbeckia keeps to orange and yellows.

The species ‘Rudbeckia fulgida’ also has had the name ‘Black eyed Susan’ given to it, but this name is commonly given to Thunbergia which is a twining , climbing annual with small yellow flowers. So if you are about to buy a packet of rudbeckia seeds with the name cone flower or black eyed susan make sure it is one of the more expensive seed packets with the glossy pictures on or you might end up with a black sheep!

The original rudbeckia flowers were mainly large orange or yellow but recently bronze, red and brown varieties have been added with names like ‘Summerina Brown’. Most varieties have a brown centre but the variety ‘Prairie Sun’ has a green central cone.

Rudbeckia for sale
Rudbeckia for sale

Buying and planting guide.

At this time of the year being one of the only flowers in full bloom – many garden centres are selling perennial  Rudbeckia varieties in pots, they are usually a variation of ‘goldstrum’ which have rather spidery petals, these plants are short lived perennial plants.

However, the ones that I prefer are the annual varieties, grown from seed, there are many new varieties available in the catalogues, my favourite is ‘toto’ which is called a dwarf variety although it grows to around 30cm. It is covered with blooms hiding the foliage and has excellent all weather resistance. There are also double varieties like ‘Cheeerokee Sunset’ – when planted en-masse they look like dwarf sunflowers. They are all quite long lasting in water, the double varieties and those with wider petals have removed themselves far enough from their common ‘daisy image’  to  look like  a high-class flower when placed  in a vase indoors.

About The Author

Profile photo of Boris Legarni

Boris inherited his green fingers from his mother, who was still planting potatoes and rhubarb in the sixties as she was afraid that they would once again be rationed. As a teenager he used to plant radishes in the corner of the school garden and sell them during break time for sixpence, to give his classmates a healthy crunchy snack. He and his wife both have had an allotment for years, but there is no competition – he does the planting and she does the harvesting and cooking. With a passion for growing anything edible, Boris has planted dozens of named fruit trees in his orchard. Nevertheless he is an avid flower arranger, and assists local communities and charities with his flower arrangements. Boris tells us that after so many years on the allotment he has made all the mistakes possible, and he will share with you his practice to make yours perfect!

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