At the peak of summer, nothing beats the black-eyed Susans for bright color and dependability. Just look at them. Right now they are growing everywhere from roadsides to manicured flower beds. Some are tall, others shorter.
But they all bring a blast of bright yellow to gold color that really stands out against the predominantly green background of the summer landscape.
Among the many choices, one variety leads my list. Its name is Goldsturm and it has been around for decades, is still sold widely and performs beautifully. The golden yellow petals surround a brown cone to create long-lasting blooms through much of the summer.
These are beautiful blooms that bring the feeling of a wild-flower meadow to a home landscape. Besides Goldsturm, many named varieties of black-eyed Susans exist. These include Irish Eyes, which has a light green center; Autumn Sun, which is notable for its stately height of 6 feet; and Rustic Dwarfs, with flowers that are marked with brownish red or bronzy orange. Very pretty.
There is plenty of choice, but I still like Goldsturm best. Though it gives the feeling of a wildflower, it presents itself in a neat way in full sun. This is not a plant for the shade. The stems are sturdy and straight so that the flowers face upwards to lovely effect. The height is uniform, topping out at about two feet, a good size for a small to medium flowerbed.
The Perennial Plant Association rewarded Goldsturm with its top honor, naming it Plant of the Year in 1999, which only spurred more people to plant and enjoy it. Though it has been in the marketplace for several decades, Goldsturm continues to attract gardeners who appreciate more than the beauty of its flowers lasting for weeks in summer.
It does not demand extra water. Once established Goldsturms can prosper with normal rainfall and even stretches of drought, as they proved during summers of little rainfall over the past 15 years.
They also propagate themselves in the nicest ways, forming nice clumps over a couple of years. These can easily be dug, divided and replanted in fall or spring. They are not too picky about soil conditions, though well-dug beds with clay lightened by good topsoil will encourage robust growth. You may be attracted to the sight of them in full bloom in garden centers. Plant now, but pay close attention to watering newly planted ones.
Goldsturm combines well with many other perennials. Many of the perennial salvias that bear blue or violet blooms in midsummer look good and offer a contrasting shape and texture. Coming along a bit later, Russian sage, with its tall stems (3 to 4 feet) of violet-blue flowers on gray-green foliage, can make a nice background for Goldsturm. Yellow-gold and blue-violet are excellent color combinations.
These are good, low-maintenance combinations that stand out in summer and make such a colorful sight we can almost forget that the landscape is dominated by green right now.