Rudbeckia hirta ‘Orange Fudge’ is a new offering from Kings Seeds with fudge-brown cones and orange and yellow bi-coloured petals. It flowers from spring till autumn, tolerates heat, drought and poor soils, grows to a height of 50cm and has sturdy stems that are great for picking.
Rudbeckias are dead easy to grow and you can sow seeds now for a mid to late-summer display. Sow in trays or pots for transplanting later.
Check your seed packet. Some say to cover the seed lightly, others say not to. I generally cover mine very lightly and keep trays moist but not wet. Germination should occur between 10 to 15 days.
When big enough plant out in the garden in a sunny location with free-draining but moisture retentive soil. Plant about 30-45cm apart. When in bloom, snip off the faded flower heads to encourage more blooms.
I grow Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’ (available from Kings Seeds), an annual with sunny yellow blooms that has lemon tips and a green cone. It flowers constantly from summer till late autumn (even into winter in my patch), although you may find your flower stems are shorter at the beginning and end of the season. Rudbeckias are daylength-sensitive. In midsummer, when the days are long, the stalks and flowerheads will be long and showy. When the days are shorter, the stems are shorter and flowering slows down. That’s particularly so at the beginning of the season. No matter how early you sow your seeds, they won’t truly get underway until midsummer.
If you prefer your plants in a more permanent state, try Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (from Parva Plants), a hardy perennial that’s received much acclaim overseas. Planted in large drifts, its golden-orange blooms look spectacular in the autumn garden. It’s a tidy plant too, forming neat mounds and a profusion of blooms about 8-10cm in diameter.
‘Goldsturm’, which literally translates to ‘gold storm’, grows to about 60cm high and its stiff stems mean the flowers don’t need staking. There’s no need to mollycoddle this plant either. While most rudbeckia like humus-rich soil and moist conditions, ‘Goldsturm’ tolerates average soil, even on the dry side. It will grow in light shade, but for optimum blooms grow it in full sun. Even in winter this brash plant continues its show, with its black stems and seed heads being a real standout.
Quite different is Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Golden Glow’ (also from Parva Plants) which has sunny yellow, double flowers on stems up to 1.8m high. The petals are so numerous they almost obscure the greenish cone, although the cones become more pronounced at the end of summer. Plant this perennial variety at the back of the border and give it lots of room so it can show off its best.
The half-hardy annual Rudbeckia hirta ‘Sonora’ (from Egmont Seeds) has a wide mahogany band around its golden yellow petals. It grows up to 60cm high with its flowers measuring 15cm across. It looks for all the world like a short sunflower.
For something weird and wacky, though, choose Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’. This downright curious perennial, available from Niche Seeds (they’re currently on backorder; phone 0800 115 343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to put your name down on the list), doesn’t come dressed in autumn colours like the rest of them – it has no petals at all. It sports a black cone surrounded at the base by green sepals. Actually, to be accurate, it does produce a ring of yellow flowers around the cone, but these blooms are so miniscule they look as though they’re part of the cone itself.
I love ‘Green Wizard’ for its oddity. The slugs love it for its succulent green leaves. Keep them protected with slug and snail bait or traipse outdoors at night with a torch and bucket and catch the blighters in action.