25 August 2010

Small Black Eyes

Seeds were obtained from Jim, a participant in the fall plant swap brunch last year. I wanted Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) in the garden for a long time, given their exuberant displays in late summer through fall, when other stars in the garden fade. I was glad to have the chance to finally grow them.

Two years ago, I was in luck - a neighbor had them growing throughout her back yard and offered me the chance to dig up as many as I could carry. Then, in less than a month, her house went up for sale and she moved away. Yes, I thought of helping myself after she moved and before the new owners arrived, but did not want to give the new owners the idea that we were a neighborhood of plant thieves.

In November, I quickly grabbed Jim's Rudbeckia seeds. I was told the plants seed themselves every fall and come up in the spring on their own, so I should just scatter the seeds around the ground. I was hoping these were not going to be the drooping petal, normal size, large-center-eye type my transient neighbor had, but beggars cannot be choosy.

Welcome springtime. Never having grown these before and being unfamiliar with the plant and its leaves, I almost pulled the seedlings out as weeds. Now, they are loudly announcing their presence in the side yard. I am happy to report that we have the 5-inch (10 cm), large-bloom, small black-eyed variety!

This is another American native plant, and is the state flower of Maryland, (with its state flag having the same black and yellow colors.) The name comes from Olaus Rudbeck, who was a professor of botany at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and a teacher of Carl Linnaeus (Father of Taxonomy).
"Rudbeckias were grown in English gardens many years before they were accepted by Americans as worthy garden plants. British plant collector John Tradescant was given roots of the wildflower by French settlers in the New World. The plant was shared with others and was soon popular in English gardens. By the mid-1800's, the rudbeckia had found its way back to America.
For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Pest: small holes in leaves beginning

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, canna, nasturtium, mexican zinnia, rudbeckia, zinnia, cosmos, cleome, rose, salvia (again), calendula
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 2 tomatoes, 10 cucumbers (done)


Les said...
This is such a satisfying perennial and seems to grow just about anywhere.

I use to prune my neighbor's yard when it was rental property and they were between tenants. All kinds of weed trees would come up that I did not want to mature. No one ever knew the difference.
Alison Kerr said...
Aren't these just the stars of the garden at this time of year! I have a few which appeared in my prairie garden this year after several years absence. Thanks for the history lesson - very interesting.