Nancy Brachey

2 perennials that are grand in summer

The Goldsturm rudbeckia accompanied by blue veronica and Russian sage.
The Goldsturm rudbeckia accompanied by blue veronica and Russian sage. Observer file photo

I have good thoughts these days for a couple of perennials that are really showing how good they are this summer.

And though they have won awards in the past for beauty and performance, they deserve a medal for making it through June and into July and still looking good.

They are the rudbeckia named Goldsturm and a Shasta daisy called Becky. While these have been around for many years, I never appreciate them more than in the hot weeks of summer.

These two should be the centerpieces of any sunny flowerbed, where their beauty shines at midsummer. In addition to their rugged constitution, they possess two important similarities in appearance:

The flowers of both have a daisy shape with narrow petals arranged evenly around a central disk. They make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers for indoors.

And the flower stems are remarkably sturdy, straight and not inclined to flop, which makes for a neat appearance in the garden.

Both these attributes contribute to the beauty of the summer garden. But they are distinctly different in color. Goldsturm has golden-yellow petals and a dark, cone-shaped center, creating a dramatic look. Becky, like most Shasta daisies, has white petals around a yellow center, which is cooler.

Another important asset they bring is a carefree spirit that is almost guaranteed to make a gardener happy. Disasters, either from pests or weather, rarely befall these plants. Fresh new growth appears in spring and grows into nice, neat clumps that look good well into autumn, even after the flowers fade. Both are amenable to division and replanting in fall or spring every few years, which is why they are often passed around to friends and neighbors.

Becky is taller, its flower stems rising to 3 feet or so and incredibly straight. Goldsturm is a bit shorter, about 2 1/2 feet or so.

Together they look fine, but the addition of annuals or perennials with a different shape and color makes for a more interesting display. These choices might be any of the blue or red salvias, pentas, celosia or any other vertical plant that blooms in summer. The contrast between the daisy shaped flowers with others that are different adds an interesting variety.

The nice thing is you can safely mix up any flower color with Becky and Goldsturm. They go with everything and you simply don’t have to worry about how well they will do, even after the weeks of early summer heat we’ve already endured in the Piedmont.

Nancy Brachey: nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com

Ask Nancy

Q. I want a small tree for my courtyard, to increase shade on the patio area and plants growing there. What do you suggest?

A. Japanese maples rank among the most beautiful small trees for home landscapes. There is enormous variety in leaf color and shape as well as mature size. Sunlight filtering through a Japanese maple is quite wonderful. And the tree is lovely whether viewed close-up or from a distance.

I suggest you visit garden centers this summer where they are sold. Estimate the height and width you want the tree to be at maturity. Study the range of leaf color and shape. You have plenty of time to make a wise selection before planting time this fall.

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