Yellow Daisies Redux
My House in August
Radiant yellow daisies dominate my August gardens. The wanton, golden Showy Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa var. sullivantii), the color of marigolds, is everywhere, anywhere its seeds have found a bit of bare dirt in which to sprout.
Every year I think I have way too many Showy Black-eyed Susan–until August, when their ravishing blossoms fill my sunny gardens. The golden-petaled daisies with chocolate centers bloom from mid-to-late July until mid-September on a bushy plant 2-3’ tall and up to 4’ wide. Rare in the wild, it is Indigenous to wet, calcareous habitats; it nevertheless thrives in ordinary garden soil. Due to a shallow root system, it is not, however, drought-resistant–a dry summer without water input will cause severe wilting and even death.
Ribbons of Showy Black-eyed Susan and Prairie Drop Seed (Sporobolis heterolepis) edge a driveway. This was my inspiration and from where my Black-eyed Susan came from. Absolutely brilliant design by Kerry Leigh for Marianne Nelson–the very first Prairie Garden in Elgin.
View from my Front Door This Week
Showy Black-eyed Susan and Prairie Baby’s Breath (Euphorbia corollata) in bloom.
Prairie Baby’s Breath (usually called Flowering Spurge) does indeed resemble the more familiar Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) of florists’ bouquets and old-fashioned gardens. Its erect 2-4’ stems branch out near the top, then again and again, forming a flat-topped corymb of dainty, 5-petaled white flowers that lend an airy note to any garden in July and August. It appears fragile, but that is not the case. iIn nature it it found in dry open habitats such as Lake Michigan dunes, both dry and mesic prairies, and in pastures (Swink & Wilhelm).
Along the West Sidewalk next to my House
Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) makes exclamation points in the sea of yellow daisies in the west side parkway at my house.
Intimate hide-away in my side yard–only a few feet from the public sidewalk, but completely private. It’s surrounded by Showy Black-eyed Susan with Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) and the giant leaves of Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) in front.
Here’s a close-up of the spectacular Prairie Dock leaves. Place this plant at the front of your garden as a bold accent. Hold your hands against both side of the leaf–it will feel cool no matter how hot the day.
In summer, smooth, leafless, central stalks rise up to 10’, topped by clusters of 3” golden sunflowers that begin to bloom the last week in July.
While the other Silphium are rhizomatous, Prairie Dock has a deep taproot that can penetrate to the water table, reaching depths of 14 1/2 feet or more that enable it to survive long periods of severe drought. (Thomas Antonio and Suzanne Masi, The Sunflower Family in the Upper Midwest)
As the bright golden blossoms of Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris) and Cup Plant fade, they become feeding stations for the bright golden Gold Finches. Place them in view of the windows of the room in which you eat breakfast and enjoy their delightful feasting.
You may have thrown up your hands and said, “That’s way too much garden for me. buying all those plants would be too expensive and the upkeep! I could never maintain it.”
Native plants may be purchased from Native Plant Nurseries and from plant sales held by Wild Ones and other conservation groups. Or friends may give you plants. Join or start a Wild Ones chapter in your area–plant exchanges and plant sales are regular events. And something we seem to have forgotten: plants produce flowers and–here’s the part we have been forbidden to let happen–flowers produce seeds, which produce new plants that look just like the ones that produced the seeds. Also, many native plants increase by underground stolons. Your garden will fill up, almost effortlessly. Yes. you will have to water and weed somewhat for the first 2 years, and your plants will appear awkward at first, but after that you’re home free. You won’t have to water or weed, deadhead, fertilize, or use pesticides. Too good to be true? Gardening with nature really works. The only maintenance I have is to cut its exuberance back from along my sidewalks in mid-summer and conduct a controlled burn early spring or late fall–not as intimidating as it sounds.
If you consider that to be too daunting, you can cut it down in early spring and compost the clippings.