Tag Archives: Rudbeckia maxima

Bloom Day May 2016

Welcome to the jungle. (Okay, so it’s a dry jungle.)

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This will be an abridged Bloom Day post, looking at the telescoped view through my office doorway and describing the big stuff that stands out in the frame.
Rudbeckia maxima on the left is nearly as tall as the pergola but not as tall as the tetrapanax behind it in this view. The kangaroo paws are starting to gain height.
Orange poppies on the far right are Glaucium grandiflorum,. Just one plant is at least a yard across this year.
It wouldn’t be summer without daisies, and this year there’s orange arctotis (right foreground near the sea kale, Crambe maritima).
And buttery yellow Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ with ferny, silvery green leaves, not pictured but at the feet of the glaucium.
The little white dots just to the right behind the dark aeoniums come from one of my favorite summer daisies, Argyranthemum foeniculaceum, a Canary Islander.
I never find it local, so this plant comes from a cutting I nabbed at a San Francisco park. Small, simple daisies with grey-green, finely cut leaves.
Purple and blues from Salvia uliginosa and Salvia leucantha. More Verbena bonariensis seedlings are coming into bloom.
In the foreground to the left of Yucca ‘Blue Boy’ I’m just stupidly excited to have the grass Stipa barbata coming into bloom.
Another grass I haven’t seen in bloom yet, Stipu ichru, way in the back under the acacia, has started flowering. I’ll be sure to grab photos for June.


status update Rudbeckia maxima 5/2/16

Another example of the odd juxtapositions that occur in my garden from year to year, due to an unremitting curiosity about plants I just don’t get to see locally:

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Lights, laundry shed, giant coneflower!

The cabbage coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima, known for growing in moist ditches from Arkansas to Texas, bizarrely enough, is settling into my dryish garden in Los Angeles without much fuss.
It’s too early to tell still, but it unwiltingly sailed through unseasonal high temperatures into the 90s in April. Those are some tough, leathery, cabbagey leaves.
And I do appreciate such enthusiastic blooming in its first year. I’m still waiting for 3-year-old clumps of ‘Totally Tangerine’ geum and ‘Terracotta’ yarrow to bloom.
The conventional wisdom is to let the rudbeckia’s flowers turn into seedheads, sit back, and then watch the birds feast. Up above the shed, I’ve got the cushions ready.
If like me you crave height and movement from a summer garden, this rudbeckia is for you. And if you have a moist ditch, even better.

Elsewhere in the garden…

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Papaver rupifragum. No uncertainties about this poppy. It’s been reseeding here for ages and loves a dry garden.

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Glaucium grandiflorum, planted spring 2014. Another very tough customer that never gets a minute’s worry from me.
Except I do worry a bit that there’s been no seedlings, and it’s not known for longevity. There’s always something to worry about…

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Salvia uliginosa, aka the bog sage. Quite the misnomer. Another plant that wouldn’t mind moister conditions but manages fine without.
This salvia, planted fall 2015, like similarly easy ‘Waverly’ and S. chiapensis, cycles in and out of the garden. The bog sage adds wonderful swaying movement. (And hummingbirds.)
My heavy soil incites intense emotions. I hate it and I love it. I love it when its stiffness and heaviness keeps plants like the bog sage and tetrapanax from running rampant.
I love it for allowing me to grow unlikely candidates like Rudbeckia maxima and Persicaria amplexicaulis without toting buckets and buckets of water.
(I hate it for harboring pathogens that it unleashes on warm summer days to kill prized dry garden shrubs.)

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The reseeding ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ nicotianas are still incredibly lovely, so needed their portrait included as well.

And so on with May!

Wednesday miscellany

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Progress report on Rudbeckia maxima. Snails love this rudbeckia, so I’ve been cutting out a lot of chewed-up lower leaves.
Believe it or not, it seems to be forming bloom stalks already.
Zone 10 can be a topsy-turvy home for true perennials, which sometimes develop a bad case of insomnia as they are constantly prodded out of dormancy, or fail to enter dormancy entirely.
Whatever happens with the blooms, I still love those leaves, so the snails have a fight on their hands.
With ‘Sundiascia Peach,’ Melianthus ‘Purple Haze.’ Blue grass is Leymus ‘Canyon Prince.’
I’ve pretty much given up on the parkway/hellstrip the past few years but am thinking of making a stab at planting it again, with this wonderful grass.
Wildly swinging car doors, careless stompers, trash throwers, all you negative forces in the universe, I’m putting ‘Canyon Prince’ up against everything you’ve got. We’ll see who wins!
Along with planting parkways, I continue to be of two minds on just about any subject. As much as I love flowers, the diascias look a bit much to me.
I think I prefer big floral displays in OPG (Other People’s Gardens). And it’s doubtful anyone would count this as a big floral display, but still it’s a bit too foo-foo for me.
Of course, insects love the foo-foo, so there’s that to consider.

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This, however, is my kind of floral display. The beschorneria bloom stalk has topped out at about 5 feet and the individual buds have opened.
This has to be one of the most colorful bloom stalks ever to grace my garden.

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Strobilanthes gossypinus is looking fine this spring too and continues to astonish. Silver and gold? Seriously, you can do that?

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My mom’s neighbor’s graptopetalum is covering itself in its unique galactic bloom strucuture again.
It’s hard to sneak a photo because I have to stand directly in front of their window to do so.
Being a gated community, there’s not a lot of love for strangers with cameras fawning over their plants.

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I don’t remember the lemon cypresses producing these last year.
Nearby plantings were getting coated in a golden dust that had me mystified as to its source, until I knocked a cypress branch and unleashed a mini golden dust storm.
Of course I couldn’t leave the cypresses alone and have forced them into double duty. Passion vines and solanums are threading their way up.

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And I keep forgetting to credit Abutilon venosum for blooming all winter, so thank you!

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.

notes on some spring plant sales

Is that a water pistol in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?


I’ve been hearing from friends in the retail nursery business that the new water restrictions have them very worried. Indeed, I’ve been told retail sales for April were most discouraging.
Yet botanical garden plant sales this spring, which understandably bring out the most avid plant lovers, have been mobbed.
Undaunted, unbowed, we’re still in search of a new plant love, just like every spring before this momentous one, but keeping a closer eye on our latest infatuation’s potential drinking problem.
(At Fullerton Arboretum’s outdoor Green Scene, this year’s darling was Pimelia ferruginea, helpfully in full bloom. It seemed to be in everyone’s cart.)

But since the announcement, the confusion and dismay of the lawn-and-foundation-shrub crowd is palpable. There’s even panicked talk of deploying Astroturf.
A simple, reasonably easy-to-maintain, preferably inexpensive solution to the space between the sidewalk and front door is wanted now.
Local nurseries have a huge opportunity to lead the masses into a dry garden oasis, possibly by more focus on small display gardens instead of benches and benches of summer “color.”

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Now, this is a plant sale. San Francisco Botanical Garden plant sale 5/2/15. Shopping carts!

Along with Fullerton Arboretum’s Green Scene, I’ve attended the Huntington and the San Francisco Botanical Garden sales.
These photos are all from SF, a plant sale I’d never attended before. Was it worth the 6-hour drive? Absolutely, every minute of it.
(Plus, I got to stop in and give Mitch a hug for his birthday later in the week.)

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Prices were unbelievably low, the selection much more rarified than the plant sales in SoCal.
I lingered long and hard at the proteaceae table. That’s Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’ in the foreground.

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Here was the Leucadendron argenteum I’ve been waiting for, but ultimately I passed. It’s a big beast.
I took a chance instead on a Protea neriifolia, which probably won’t get very big in my garden, if you take my meaning…

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A book table was a nice touch, but I didn’t spend too much time here (any!). The variety of plants was way too distracting.

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Some desirables were sitting not on sales tables anymore but in somebody else’s cart, like this bomarea. In somebody’s unattended cart.
That moral dilemma might be too much for some attendees. Fortunately, I was forearmed with the knowledge that life in Los Angeles for bomareas is a struggle for survival.
After a couple years, mine is still alive, but just barely. Sometimes it’s so hard to distinguish that fine line between still getting established and fading away entirely.

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Oh, there was plenty of juicy looking stuff, like Mukdenia rossii. Walk away, just walk away.

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Now we’re talking. There was a huge California native section too.

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Lemony flutterby poppies.

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And a big succulent selection, of course.. I think the only area SoCal has SF beat is in agaves. Not a big selection in SF.
But then that’s what the Ruth Bancroft Garden plant sales are for. I wish there had been time to stop by this trip, but there just wasn’t.

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I’ve been thinking of lavenders a lot too. Absolutely nowhere to put them at the moment.

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Plant sale haul at home. Protea neriifolia, Leucadendron laxum, Plectranthus zuluensis. The white dierama in bloom was too cheap to pass up.
(But I do apologize in advance for moving you to my garden, the renowned graveyard of dieramas.)
The dierama was planted near Eryngium pandanifolium and Rudbeckia maxima, both of which wouldn’t mind it moist but tolerate drier conditions when established.
(Rudbeckia maxima was found at the Green Scene plant sale.
I spotted the rudbeckia’s big silvery paddle leaves at a display garden at Fullerton Arboretum and tracked it down to their store, The Potting Shed.)

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And this marvelous creature came home from SF, too, a species watsonia.

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I’ve grown the garden hybrids of this South African bulb off and on, which bulk up fast and get bigger than phormiums.
I got a bit bored with the pink and white selections of those. This one’s color reminds me of Nerine sarniensis.

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With a pronounced seductive red flush on the stems and leaves.

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Coincidentally, I bumped into a Protea neriifolia in bloom that weekend at Flora Grubb Gardens.
FGG is where I found my Mother’s Day present, a new container for my Cussonia spicata, which literally busted through the old one.

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And a happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers of invention, gardens, kids and/or animals. May you find a new pot for your growing cussonia!
The skies have turned cloudy and, believe it or not, slightly rainy, so I’ve turned my attention to getting the vegetable garden sorted out, beans planted, tomatoes tied up, etc.