Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, July 21, 2008

Coarsely-Hairy, But Lovely To Me

That's how the author of a book on Tennessee wildflowers describes Black-Eyed Susan. Coarsely-hairy! It’s possible that some might find her a less than refined flower. It’s true she has rough leaves and sun-flowery face that might be off-putting. Really, she is just a bit hairy. The hirta in Rudbekia hirta refers to hairs and she has them!

Take a close look at her in this photo, click to enlarge...She is indeed rather hairy. You can clearly see the tiny little hairs along her stem.

But coarse…that’s a bit much! Maybe she doesn’t belong in every garden but she is essential in mine.

Just as purple coneflower and liatris are waning...Black-Eyed Susan step ups to take a bow. Without this native which is often described as annual, biennial or even perennial this garden would look quite bare during late July and August. If I can keep her dead headed and sufficiently watered....she will be with me until the fall asters bloom.


The particulars:

She's happy in almost any aspect, although, a sunny site with adequate water is preferred. She’s a taller plant in full sun; bushier and fuller in shade. One thing you need to know…she is a prolific seeder and scatters her progeny about the gardens with glee.

She's found a home in a shadier bed at the base of Viburnum rufidulum. I leave her here to duke it out with native Columbine, River Oats and Hypericum; all vigorous self seeders.

Here’s Susan in the sunny bed with Black and Blue Salvia, Peachie's Pick Stokesia and Salvia Leucantha (yet to bloom).If you look closely, you can see that there is one flower per stem! Which makes for a very nice display in a vase or for holding her own next to tall plants in the sunny bed.

Don't you love her her black eye! It's a pretty cool cone. The dark cone or disk and golden petals are both florets. Floret is a term that's used with composite flowers. The best example of composite florets is broccoli! A large number of tiny flowers in a grouping that looks like one flower. In Susan's case it's a cone. The disk or cone floret is where all the faunal action takes place. The petal or ray florets are there to attract pollinators. A pretty golden party dress.

She has absolutely no fragrance. But she doesn’t need fragrance to attract bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and beetles for pollination. The bees take up the nectar and collect pollen along the journey. The caterpillar of silvery checkerspot feeds on the leaves. Finches occasionally feed on the seed, but they will fill up on the coneflower seeds first!


This member of the aster family's claim to fame are her sunny rays and dark center....but I celebrate her easy going nature, her long bloom time and her ability to tolerate shade. She may be coarsely–hairy, but she has her charms.


Gail

If we make our goal to live a life of compassion and unconditional love, then the world will indeed become a garden where all kinds of flowers can bloom and grow. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

52 comments:

  1. Your Susan's Texas relatives probably wish they could move to Tennessee ... at least the ones on my corner of Katy! I have several different kinds of Rudbeckias and love them all, but it's tough love. They don't get any extra water or attention from me. When they start looking ratty from fungal problems, they're yanked and their progeny are left to carry on the legacy!

    I got tagged by Linda at Meadowview Thymes and you're one of my six taggees! Here's the link to my post. http://texascottagegarden.blogspot.com/2008/07/very-short-sunday-stroll-lets-play-tag.html

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  2. Hi Gail, Susan is very welcome here, in all her forms. That yellow color is just the thing to set off the purples of the phlox and echinaceas. Yellow draws the eye, so she has had her seeds scattered hither and yon to give us something besides green until the fall foliage kicks in. Gotta go, the Pod is here;-<

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  3. Once again, beautiful photos, Gail. I really appreciate the information you provide about the flowers you photograph--especially since we share so many natives. Thanks.

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  4. Cindy,

    Tough Love huh! I can't do that here...She's it for color! Well, there are a few zinnias and cosmos but Susan is the star!

    Hmm...what to tell and who to tag!

    Gail

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  5. Frances,

    I just have the hirta, no named varieties, yet! I saw some on sale at the Krogers...big heads of gold with eyes liner of rust around her big brown eye! Should I go back for more groceries?

    Good luck this week!

    Gail

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  6. Cosmos,

    You are kind...I like that about you! Susa is a fun flower and she posed nicely for her closeup!

    Gail

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  7. I love my Susan and so does Peter and Paula Cotton tail! Last year they ate an entire 6 X 4 planter of Susan’s I had by the street! They got to the ones in the garden but I figured out in time who the culprit was and I saved them! This year, I jumped on spreading the smelly stuff in early spring and so far, no bunny on the Susan’s! Susan in the planter by the street never returned! Empty planter this year and I am glad I did not plant anything with this drought. My poor planter by the mailbox looks pitiful….

    My Susan’s always fall over with being too top heavy. I would cut them and bring them into the house to enjoy but I would have to fight off the cats! So they juts lay on the ground in the garden….

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  8. skeeter,

    That is a sad tale of the Susans and the evil Peter and Paula. Those bunnies sure do some damage...I don't have that problem here...I haven't a smorgasbord of vegetables to attract them. They seem to stay across the street at my neighbors!

    I know about plant eating cats!

    gail

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  9. Hairy or not I love these too. Last year they were so pitiful and I am SO happy to see them this year! The more I see your garden in pics the more I am ready to come on down there...got the sweet tea ready?

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  10. Can we vote twice? I want to say they are hairy and a delight and Gail has found a new blog toy! lol

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  11. I like the survey addition !
    I love the Susan's. Something is eating my petals right now though and all I have left is the eye!

    I must catch the culprit, I think it may be the japanese beetle but I am not sure yet.

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  12. Gail, I have been seeing these along the roadsides here and drooling over them. I love the cones and the bright yellow. I seem to have a lot of yellow this year, but there's always room for more. I have some shady spots that could use brightening and of course they would look great paired with my dark purple butterfly bush. Your pictures are wonderful!

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  13. Tina,

    Multiple times and multiple answers are fine with me! It's a new toy...soon I shall move on to slide shows and then I may even figure out HTML language! Won't that be scary!

    I have been outside turning on the soaker hose to water those golden florets. It was bad last year they were burned to a crisp! So much better this year...BTW...you're perennial bed looks wonderful!

    Come on down before all the flowers are gone! Just let me know so I cn clean up the public spaces of my house!

    Gail

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  14. Cindy,

    Something is eating the petals on mine, too! I can't see anything and it's too high up for Peter and Paula (see skeeter above) to reach. But even then they are cute!

    Vote and vote often, Cindy!

    Gail

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  15. Gail, No need to clean the house for me, as I am a gardener first and know where most of our thoughts and hearts lie-and it ain't with the dishes and vacumn cleaner! Probably mid August might be good. Depends when I finish this room I am painting and decorating and on school; which is almost over for the quarter-yahoo!

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  16. Beckie,

    Liberate the seeds! I can send you some, too. Their genes will be a hardy stock used to hot and humid summers, they will be shocked to have their roots in your rich Illinois soil and grow tall and floriferous!

    Thank you for the compliment...I love how they look when enlarged!

    Let me know about the seeds!


    Gail

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  17. Tina,

    Ok...let me know if you are going to be here sooner!

    Gail

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  18. I love this flower. The color of yellow just says "look at me". I wish I had a start of these lovelies. Is that what I see along the sides of roads about this time of yr? Is it possible to secure seeds from them?
    Your pics are always so clear you can see all the details of the flower.

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  19. lola,

    This flower grows in every state but two...so I imagine hey are are the side of the road...you ought to be able to get seeds...if I am able to collect, sometime I forget! ...I can send you some.

    Gail

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  20. I've let some black-eyed Susan's into my garden, too, and let a nice patch of it grow by the steps to the front porch. This morning in the early light, the petals had that "fall golden yellow" look to them, which with the black centers, looked "Hallowe'eny". It's too early for the color combo!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

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  21. Hi Gail,
    How odd to see rudbeckias up here today as I just shot a few of ours yesterday, and over at Mother Nature's Garden, she had a post of a veritable ocean of them growing in her garden! I guess we do have some concurrently blooming flowers in common, even given the geographical distance!

    As for hirta, I can't keep track of how many hirtas we have around, so many different plants share the same species in one form or another! (e.g. The Tricyrtis hirta I posted last night, which, by the way, if you don't have any Toad Lilies you should try a couple in your shady areas (amend first, of course), because they really reward here in Late August onward to frost! I bet they'd do great around where you have your Epimediums ... end of sales pitch.

    Finally, you prompt the question about being in every garden ... I can't imagine a great prairie native garden without them, along with coneflowers and other plants! I was really happy to discover that ours had started blooming yesterday!

    btw, they're great clay busters too! One more feather in her lovely cone, hehe.

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  22. If we did without hairy plants here in Austin, our gardens would be bare indeed. Many of my plants are hairy---the hairs reduce water loss. Black-eyed Susan is always welcome, as well as her sister, purple coneflower.

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  23. Gail, Would you believe I don't have any black-eyed Susans in my garden?! It's always one of the most highly recommended plants here in Illinois, too, probably as much as the coneflowers. I guess I never planted any because I wasn't as fond of yellow. I'm thinking about creating another flowerbed, more of a "wild" garden, and the Susan's are definitely on the planting list.

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  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  25. Rose,

    Copied your email and deleted it! I will make plans with family and email you details.

    Gail

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  26. Carol,

    Halloween!..It is too early for Halloween although I could use the cooler weather and the fall rains! Send some rain our way Carol!

    Gail

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  27. ivg,

    They grow in every state but the two desert states. I just visited MN yesterday and wished I had gone sooner and could have made a link, it's certainly not too late.

    Regarding your enviable Tricyrtis hirta...I can only say WOW! What an interesting and lovely plant. Is it my imagination or are the leaves rather hosta like in appearance? You have convinced me to give them a good look!

    I have been thinking about my clay soil! It needs more compost but I am not able to make as much as I need. There is a compost farm but the delivery actually costs more than the compost and when I spoke with the owner he said that he sells by the bag but it costs twice the amount!

    Yes the clay buster plants are greatly appreciated here!

    You know that the prairie is in my roots...Missouri born and bred!

    Gail

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  28. rose,

    They are pretty much all about yellow, too! Do you want me to collect seeds, I told Beckie and Lola I would. We don't have your cold weather but they will certainly have the genetics for hot and humid!

    I was standing by the sunny bed looking at the prairie flowers growing like a meadow...I am not good about keeping plants from intermingling; the yellow seems to work that way, maybe because there is one dominant color ...purple!....to draw the eye. Love the purple!

    Gail

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  29. Panm,

    I am glad you mentioned the purpose of hirta/hairy! It would have been a nice addition to the post. I am glad you are back, your post photos have been outstanding!

    Gail

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  30. Gail, you talk about your favorites so well that you make us want them, too.
    I had lots of Black-eyed susans at previous houses, but don't grow them at this house. The yellows are mainly lemons and there aren't any meadow-type places where they'd fit in, but I sure would like a bunch of these long-stemmed single Susans in a vase for the dining room!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  31. Annie,

    Susans are not lemon yellow at all! They are rather bright! If you change your mind, I can send you seeds!
    Thank you for such a lovely compliment; sometimes we need a little pick me up...

    Gail

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  32. Coarsely hairy? Sounds like he's describing a coyote.

    Gosh, I wish they self sewed in my garden. I grow them as annuals and none ever come back. Too much mulch probably.

    Your photos are so pretty.
    Marnie

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  33. Marnie,

    I'm thinking it's the mulch, too. That is a dilemma...mulch makes a garden look neat and finished but smothers the seedlings. If I could get more compost cooked, I would mulch with it...as it is my little composter can't keep up with the demand. Thank you, I think learning how to use my camera has helped a great deal...especially macro settings.

    Gail

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  34. Too bad she doesn't have any fragrance, but she is lovely to look at! I can't see anything coarse about her! Just a lovely sight to brighten a gloomy day. And I love that she's everywhere! She definitely fits in with the green foliage.

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  35. dp,

    I do think she's a lovely flower and I totally get the coarse comment. When you pick up a bouquet of her leaves and stems she's kind of bristly! But she has other charms that he didn't mention! It's really green is the shady gardens so her yellow helps.

    Gail

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  36. Yep Gail found a new blog toy! But I like the Susan's whatever they are called. I put couple of them in the rain garden, or rather spread seed and a couple came up. One of them has a brown pattern on the leaves I didn't expect, similar to the red on my coreopsis.

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  37. If it even half way resembles a
    sunflower, I am down with it. I abslolutly love anything that is yellow and sunny looking. I never get tired of yellows and blues. Red and oranges are overpowering at times but yellow and blue flowers just sing to me.

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  38. I love your Susans. Mine have been puny the last 2 years and not bloomed. Maybe they are just babies? I gave a bunch away to a neighbor, and the remainder must be punishing me for taking their friends away. Here in MD, we do have them by the sides of the roads, but I think they are multi stemmed. No matter, they are all lovely! Thanks for sharing yours.

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  39. Dave,

    New toy! I read that some naturally have the red and that they were then bred to get stronger eye colors! I love plants that are simple to sow and easy to care for...you will have them forever.

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  40. eve,

    They are a bright yellow leaning toward golden but mine aren't orange yellow! The do look good with blues and purples, I have a lot of purples! They are easy plants and readily grow from seed...plant this fall as if the seed had just fallen from the seed head.


    gail

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  41. kim,

    I like a flower that can grow by the side of the road! We have 3 or 4 different Rudbeckias on our roadsides and they look great with Queen Anne's Lace. Mine thrive on neglect, clay soil and a little water! Do you dead head them or let them go to seed?

    Gail

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  42. Nice entry. I have two of them currently taking over small patches I gave them.

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  43. Mr BT,

    Well thank you and welcome to C&L...there are pretty nice plants and they do like to spread out! Gail

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  44. Gail, I would love some seed. Thank-you! If I can send anything your way just let me know. I will get your email from Rose and give you an address.

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  45. beckie,

    Absolutely...and it will be sunproof and clayproof!

    Gail

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  46. Gail, They're lovely plants, hair and all. Fuzzy plants are always welcome in my garden. I especially appreciate that few critters eat their foliage.

    We have goldsturm and herbstonne, and both bloom beautifully with very little sun. I can't imagine gardening without them. Their bright, cheerful yellows really stand out.

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  47. One of your best post Gail--I loved it and learned a lot.

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  48. Linda,

    I can't imagine gardening without the Susans either...they are just essential here and now that I know that they are a host plant for a little butterfly...I am thrilled!

    Herbstone, isn't that a lovely name? There must be a reason they call it that!

    Gail

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  49. anna,

    Theank you! From you, high praise!

    gail

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  50. I have her in my garden also but if only she were not that garish 'School bus' yellow! I loved them when I was a child so they stay! Still, that color...

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  51. Dee/reddirtramblingsJuly 27, 2008 at 11:33 AM

    I don't know what I would do without them in my garden this time of year. They are pure sunshine and impervious to heat and drought. She is like the queen of the wildflowers.~~Dee

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  52. layanee,

    Yes they are a screaming yellow! But still necessary in a garden further south like ours...without these guys I would have a few phlox and monarda...what blooms this late for you?
    Gail

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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