01 June 2015

Green-Eyed Monsters

Their eyes do not stay green. After a few weeks, they begin turning brown and go completely black - just like vampires in horror films. They do not, however, glow red, at least not yet.

Green-eyed susans are what I call them in the presence of my neighbors, allowing them to understand this plant as a form of black-eyes susans. Rudbeckia Hirti - Irish Eyes concluded my second attempt at growing from seed, and a successful lesson in persistence. In the first attempt, all seeds were sown directly in the ground, some germinated, and all passed on for no apparent reason. (Apparent to me.)

I thought to add them to my bucket list of plants (that kicked the bucket) and move on, but I spotted a pack of seeds at the annual seed exchange. I decided to take a chance on the expired seed pack. A few eyes were started indoors and three germinated. They were transplanted last spring, blooming a little last year -- their first year.

This year, the three returned from the hard winter, but one was hurting. Two were merrily growing tall, so I quickly quarantined (pulled out) the sick one, hoping that whatever winter flu it caught was not contagious.

Irish Eyes flowers display narrower petals than my other rudbeckia. Height is about the same at 3-feet (1 meter), which surprised me. I expected shorter. These are robust plants producing loads of flowers. Great posture too; every flower is horizontally flat. They grow fast, and are blooming already before the other rudbeckia.

Like the Rudbeckia hirti, they have come back strong in their second year. I will expect that they too will probably fizzle out next year while their seedlings taking over. My rudbeckia are known as half-hardy perennials. Eyes have last year's offspring growing around in the bed, so I will let them grow to learn if they come back as Irish, (or if their parents have been fooling around with the Mexican zinnias).

I looked for a story behind Irish Eyes and could only find that they are a cultivar (human bred) and not a variety (natural variation). I did find interesting tidbits about rudbeckia.

They are native to the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, and were found in the New World in the 1600s by John Tradescant through French settlers. The originals, like many North American natives, found their way into European gardens, and were rediscovered and planted in American gardens in the mid 1800s. Rudbeckia were named after a Swedish professor of botany, Olaf Rudbeck.

"Rudbeckia are pollinated by insects and, in at least three species, the ultraviolet (UV) reflection patterns are different enough to allow for pollinator discrimination." This is one way pollinators can distinguish between cultivars and species of natives, even though everything else looks the same to us.

There are two dozen species of rudbeckia in North America. Some of the more popular ones are Rudbeckia amplexicalis (aka clasping coneflower or Mexican hat), Rudbeckia occidentalis (aka green wizard), and Rudbeckia fulgida (aka Goldstrum).
(Cultivar photos are not from my garden.)

For The Record:
  • Rich soil with organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No disease although attracts black aphids

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: rudbeckia, phlox, poppy, geranium, tradescantia


J Clark said...
Sigh. I don't get enough sun in Manassas for these. Wish I did. BTW, thanks for pointer on how big the baptisia (and its roots) get. I'll move mine -- too close to septic field to chance it.
Christa atCedarmereFarm said...
Hi Ray, this is a fun post to read. I love Rudbeckia (yellow is my favorite color; such a happy color) and fortunately they love our weather in Virginia. Have a nice weekend.
Swimray said...
Baptisia was too big for its britches.