Golds in the summer garden by Vicky Barney
As one who hates to water my garden, I’ve worried the last few weeks of hot, dry weather would be hard on my flower garden, parching even the hardiest perennials and shortening their flowering seasons. But some of the early bloomers are still striking (penstemons, sweet william, jupiter’s beard), and the late season bloomers are beginning to put on a beautiful show. Particularly my Golds.
Most visible of my Golds is a cultivated variety of the Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), a member of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family. I planted an annual variety that reseeds (Rudbeckia hirta “Irish Eyes”) and am pleased to see it has returned this year. It isn’t as showy, though, as a perennial variety I planted at the same time, a variety I thought was native but now I'm not so sure. Each Susan is at least 2 feet tall, has hairy leaves and sturdy stems holding a dozen or more daisy-like yellow flowers, each 4 inches in diameter. They are just now blooming and will likely flower for several weeks. New plants are appearing in other areas of my yard, even in the lawn, so they may be too aggressive in some gardens. But I am enjoying their proliferation as they are drought tolerant, attract pollinators, and provide seed for birds in the fall. The flowers also make for beautiful cut flower arrangements.
Another Gold now in bloom is the native Showy Goldeneye (Heliomeris multiflora), which has been growing in my yard for the last few years. Like the Black-eyed Susan, the Showy Goldeneye is part of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family and produces daisy-like yellow flowers. It differs in that the flowers are smaller (up to 1 ½ inches in diameter) with golden colored eyes, the leaves are narrow and smooth, and it grows as a single slender stem or in a loose group up to 3 feet tall. In past years, the flowers have stayed beautiful for several weeks and attract pollinators, drawing bees and butterflies. Showy Goldeneye can be seen blooming along the local trails.
The most recent addition to my Gold collection is Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). It too is a member of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family and a native. It appeared in my yard last summer. The plants are more vigorous and abundant this summer, surprisingly aggressive for a native volunteer. In fact, they look like small bushes, growing in groups up to 3 feet in diameter and over 3 feet tall. Blooms consist of clusters of tiny yellow daisy-like flowers along the top side of the upper most branches, creating an image of yellow pyramids on top of leafy stems. Pollinators love this plant as well, and it too is blooming along the local trails. Unlike my other Golds, though, Goldenrod may be more aggressive than I like. I may need to corral it next spring.
My favorite Gold in the garden is not native to Colorado but grows happily in our climate. Easy to grow from seed, the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), a member of the poppy (Papaveraceae) family, is a delicate looking and sprawling plant that grows about 1 foot tall, reseeds readily, provides color for most of the summer, and is drought tolerant and low maintenance. I find it blooming in nooks and crannies around my yard all summer long. It’s tenacity makes me smile.
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Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.