I find that this time of year many gardens start to look a bit sad. Once we get a few weeks of sustained heat here on the Central Coast, many annuals start to wither. Once the heat starts to push them to increased seed production, you better be deadheading on a regular basis if you want to keep them going. If, however, you’ve been busy with family,
vacation, or life in general and haven’t been spending as much time in the garden as you did in early spring, you may want to make a few additions to your flower patch to freshen it up and get ready to head into fall.
A few of my favorite flowers this time of year are rudbeckia, and gaillardia. Their happy daisy- like flowers and bold colors scream summer to me. In fact, the golden yellow hues of the flowers seem to mimic the summer sun. The most traditional of all rudbeckias, the Black-Eyed-Susan is said to have likely derived its name from an 18th century poem entitled “The Black Eyed Susan.” Growing wild through most of the United States, it is the state flower of Maryland. And although in some areas, it is considered almost a weed because it is so abundant, here it seems to behave itself nicely and can become a very hardworking member of your flower border. The common gaillardia, also known as “Blanket Flower” can be found in many wildflower mixes as well.
Both rudbeckias and gaillardias prefer a sunny spot in the garden. Although they are not particularly fussy about soil, good drainage will prevent them from rotting out during our rare wet winters. Although they can be started from seed, they can give your garden a quick pick me up when planted in a larger size. During their first growing season, they prefer regular watering, but will become fairly drought tolerant once established. Not particularly needy when it comes to fertilizer, the best practice is simply a side dressing of some good compost. Because of their fuzzy leaves, rudbeckias and gaillardias are deer resistant once the foliage has matured (new growth may be nibbled by deer). And as with most wildflowers, they not only attract butterflies, but a wide variety of bees including some native bees.
As with most strong yellows and oranges, these flowers seem to need equally bold partners in the garden or to be paired with complimentary colors of blue and purple. Some plants that can hold their own next to fiery flowers are Zinnias (reds, yellows & oranges), marigolds, and portulaca. In the blue purple ranges, try mixing them with blue & red penstemon, Russian & Santa Barbara sage, lavender and even agapanthus.
Although they don’t make particularly good cut flowers, their presence in the garden can certainly improve anyone’s mood.