Yellow Daisies Redux

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.





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10 Responses to Yellow Daisies Redux

  1. Rebecca Gale-Gonzalez August 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Pat your garden is wonderful. More spectacular than I had anticipated. I’ve seen so many picture so it through your blog but I found Jason picture of you and the following one of the side yard just a delight. Always great to see your articles and pics.


    • PatHill August 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      Thank you, Rebecca–what a nice thing to say.

  2. Suzanne Massion August 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    Pat, I think your camera has more magic than Jason’s phone, but he admitted that. I loved his free ranging plants reference to your gardening approach. His photo of you is wonderful; you’re like that Boticelli painting “Venus Rising from the Sea”. Only you have clothes on and you’re a garden sylph, rising from the Prairie Dock. I’m also in an ocean of Showy Black Eyed Susans and Tall Coreopsis, over lapping the driveway and street. I love it.

    • PatHill August 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      I’d love to get out to see your garden–I’ll try.

  3. Marianne Nelson August 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Your place is radiant! And so nice to see our River Bluff prairie that inspired you. Remember our first prairie tours together?

    • PatHill August 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      I certainly do. We went to both the Schulenburg Prairie at Morton Arboretum (we had to ask what the Prairie Dock was) and the Chicago Botanic Garden prairie IN ONE DAY

  4. Jason August 21, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    Pat, a few days after visiting your garden I was at the native plant garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden and I noticed how many Flowering Spurge plants there were – they were already changing to their beautiful fall color.

    • PatHill August 21, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

      It’s one of my favorite plants, but it’s even more attractive when we call it Prairie Baby’s Breath. Would you rather buy a plant called Flowering Spurge or Prairie Baby’s Breath?

  5. Laura Davies August 21, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    Pat, thanks for filling me in on the names of all those gorgeous plants I have been admiring on my frequent walks by your house! Having been a florist, I really thought the Flowering Spurge looked like baby’s breath, fun to know that’s it’s common name! Your posts are always so informative and beautiful!!

  6. Kevin Hebert August 22, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Great post Pat, I am happy I was able to see your gardens in person this past week. Very cool to see up close. I think I will be trying to put some wild petunia in a sunny turf section of my yard this Fall.

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