trialing Rudbeckia maxima

Overnight rain had me up early to check out one of my favorite sights (leaves soaked in rain).

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After lots of trial and error, most of the plants in the back garden have earned my confidence in their ability to survive on once-a-month irrgation during our dry summer, and sometimes I neglect to provide even that much. But there’s always new plants to try, and some that are not renowned for tolerating dryish conditions can surprise you. I saw this Rudbeckia maxima at Fullerton Arboretum last spring, its big, silvery, paddle-like leaves growing amongst summer dry-tolerant California natives. (It’s native to southeast U.S.) I’d never seen this rudbeckia before but knew it from books, so recognized it immediately. They had a couple for sale in their shop, which are the two in the photo above. I reasoned if the smart folks at Fullerton Arb. were growing it, maybe they knew something I didn’t. It’s a giant of a plant for low-lying, wettish areas with heavy soil. But you never know what the configuration of a plant’s roots and your own soil’s chemistry and composition will say to each other until you introduce them. Many years ago I grew Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’ well enough in this heavy clay, another rudbeckia with very un-rudbeckia-like leaves. The biennial Rudbeckia triloba, one of my favorites in the genus, was unhappy with the watering regimen here. But even if Rudbeckia maxima is too stressed to flower, that’s fine with me. It’s all about those leaves, the silverier the better.

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This year I seem to have loaded the back garden with big, silver leaves (verbascum in the foreground).

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I don’t mind the no-flowers thing and only ask for more of those big, luscious leaves all summer, preferably without bug damage.
Full sun might have been overoptimistic. We’ll see how it goes.

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10 Responses to trialing Rudbeckia maxima

  1. Alan @ It's Not Work, It's Gardening! says:

    Love Rudbeckia maxima! Funny though, I think of the leaves as “blue”, not silver. They really stand out whatever color you call them, and I’d be surprised if yours don’t flower.

  2. Denise says:

    Alan, it looked so silver to me at the arb. last year. I’m curious to see what it does this summer. Definitely not as blue yet as, say, Crambe maritima. And then there’s the issue of size — I may need to shuffle stuff around to accommodate it.

  3. Can’t wait to see what your experience is. I had one once. It flowered and looked awesome. In the winter it went dormant and the next year it didn’t come back. No idea why.

  4. Renee says:

    Big silvery leaves look so cooling, which is always welcome in the summer. I hope they thrive for you!

  5. Nell says:

    Maybe it is the difference in humidity, because I was going to say the same thing as Alan. I’m in the Blue Ridge foothills of western Virginia, much closer to Alan in rainfall. They’re gorgeous plants if happy.

    P.S. Small correction: the name of that Rudbeckia cultivar is ‘Herbstsonne’ (Herbst = autumn, Sonne = sun). English speakers find all those consonants together a bit much, and are pulled to drop the last S to make the word feel more natural (a “rhyme” with with ‘curbstone’).

  6. Nell says:

    Gosh, those leaves are gorgeous, and look how the ones in the last photo work with the peachy flowers (salvia?), while matching up with the silvery, thistly leaves of a neighbor.

  7. hb says:

    Once a month watering!?! I’m impressed!

  8. Denise says:

    @Gerhard, that sounds ominous! I need to check out Fullerton again this spring and see how theirs are doing.
    @Renee, thanks! This time of year, anything seems possible.
    @Nell, I wonder if stress makes the leaves more silvery? They’re bluish-silver now, so July will be the test. And thanks for the spellcheck!
    @Hoov, everything established over two years, right? New stuff will need more help — and there’s always new stuff. Containers are exempt of course.

  9. Les says:

    The foliage is indeed nice, but you may change your allegiance if and when you find yourself looking up at 7′ tall flower stalks.

  10. Denise says:

    You say that like it’s a bad thing, Les! I’m guessing there’ll be staking issues. I’ll chalk it up to this year’s folly.

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