Never thought I’d become a rudbeckia farmer, but …



The "Prairie Glow," which have orange/red markings, are hidden behind the "Herbstsonne."

These hirta “Herbstsonne,” triloba  “Prairie Glow,” and laciniata “Gold Glow”  have me all, well, um, aglow. Never
having cosied up to the “Goldsturm,” which were too short for my needs, I am
finding that these 5-8 feet tall varieties provide just the late summer oomph
demanded when things can begin to look a bit less than fresh.

Though it seems I am always behind. The big excitement now
is all around echinaceas with food-related names: “Tomato Soup,” “Mac ‘n’
Cheese,” “Tangerine Dream, “ and “Coconut Lime.” (There are tons more.) My
friend  Dee/reddirtramblin writes about echinacea madness here.

Most of those will not get high enough for me though (I have
a brick wall to overcome), so I’ll continue with the rudbeckia, though I doubt
they’ll start coming in double raspberry and lime green varieties, and still
maintain their height. Or can they? Terra Nova? Proven Winners? Are you
listening? Would I even want such a thing? Probably not, but it would be interesting to see them try.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Is it too strong of me to say that 99% of these new cone cultivars can go to hell? 1) They are stupidly pricey even years later; and 2) They don’t do well. Wait: 3) Several look like they are having their guts ripped out by a blender on high speed (i.e. fluffy yuck). My regular ‘ole native cones settle in quick and solid and bloom nuts. I also walk up a hill every day through tar pits and lion prides in order to get a thimble of water–which is also all these natives need to grow on.

  2. I have a problem with how pricey these wonderful new colorful varieties are, too. I got a Green Envy one for not too much and it’s growing okay from its tiny bareroot, but no blooms this year. We’ll see how it does. I got a Harvest Moon and a Vintage Wine (bareroot) by mail order last year and both died.

  3. It was mentioned to me today by a noted hybridizer that the trick to keeping these babies going is to treat them as E. paradoxa and not E. purpurea. They’re genetically crossed but behave more like the former which needs to have a good solid root system established in the first season or two before it gets going on the flowering.

    He said to deadhead them completely (not let them flower at all! which it hard when everyone is salivating to have that first bloom) the first year and that will strengthen the root system.

    Not exactly a carefree method like purpurea but I did agree with him – I have a tendency to cull some of the coneflower heads of the different species to keep them from flopping and encourage healthier foliage so his reasoning sort of made sense.

    I just think it shouldn’t have been marketed as carefree – there should be some instructions included.

  4. I like to grow native plants from seed so I probably lean toward “Purist” on some chart, and I love Rudbeckias and I even like some of the cultivars around. I also love Echinacea, but start having problems with all the strange hybrid colors recently abounding. “Purple” Coneflowers have started looking more like the muted rainbow of Gerbera Daisies, and what’s the point? Because we can………… hmmmmm, well, I can’t stop anyone. And since humanity’s tampering fingers have touched the whole globe deeply, maybe it will become helpful to have these multitudes of “tamperees” out in the realm to battle out survival in these rapidly changing times. Sometimes I wonder, with all our knowledge, if we have any clue what we’re up to. Evolution used to take time, alot of time.

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