Fall is a great time to plant perennials in preparation for the spring season, but it’s also an occasion to add immediate fall color to the garden.
There are a host of excellent fall-blooming shrubs and perennials to choose from, but if golds and chocolate browns appeal to your color palette, there’s almost nothing better than rudbeckias.
Black-eyed Susans, as they’ve been known to gardeners for centuries, offer a host of colorful combinations, everything from pale chartreuse to burnished golds, some marked prominently with chocolate and ginger colors. There are two kinds of rudbeckias, the annual R. hirta hybrids, which flood garden centers this time of year, and the less showy but hardier perennial species. It is perhaps unfair to say that the latter are less showy; it’s more accurate to say that these species may not always be in bloom when you visit your local nursery and thus aren’t as immediately tempting.
Then again, who can resist the blooming annual varieties? Start with the dwarf ‘Becky’ series, which covers a wide range of colors, including bright yellows, golds, even one aptly named Cinnamon bi-color. At only 10 inches, they’re great for adding low color to a planting bed.
Rudbeckias also include double forms, such as the charming 2-foot-tall R. ‘Goldilocks,’ whose 3-inch flowers feature orange-burnished golds. ‘Prairie Sun’ is particularly striking, with its inner orange ring and almost chartreuse outer areas. Standing nearly 3 feet and floriferous, it has a commanding presence. ‘Indian Summer’ is a stunning variety whose traditional golden, single form flowers can stretch to an astounding 8 inches in diameter.
Black-eyed Susans can be added to any number of garden beds, as long as they’re getting a good dose of sun. They make good container plants and play well with other flowers. If you have a butterfly garden, they make a good addition to that area.
There is no shortage of striking rudbeckia perennial species. R. fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ is a hardy and attractive species, with slender golden petals that can reach 5 inches across. It maintains a modest height of 2 feet. For something taller, consider adding R. triloba, a vigorous, long-blooming species that makes up for its smaller flowers by producing masses of them. At 5 feet tall, it makes a statement. Equally impressive is R. maxima, another tall rudbeckia whose distinguishing feature is its especially tall brown cone. This species reminds me of its family cousin, ratibida (Mexican hats).