I’ve always loved Black-eyed Susans, even after I learned their botanical name is Rudbeckia hirta or fulgida – quite a mouthful, but what lovely plants! Their bright yellow petals are such a cheerful sight.
Years ago I added a few different cultivars to my veggie garden and have been reaping the rewards ever since. I soon noticed that each successive summer brought new and interesting Rudbeckias to life. It seems that these very industrious plants are always busy crossing their traits with the aid of pollinators flying from flower to flower. My habit of collecting and spreading seed around every autumn enabled more of these new crosses to grow to maturity.
Black-eyed Susans can be annuals – flowering the first year from seed then dying; biennials – putting out basal leaves the first year but no flowers until the second year after which they perish; or perennial – flowering for a number of successive years but dying back to the ground each winter.
The most interesting result of a cross in my garden was a beautiful, two-foot tall, bushy Rudbeckia that bloomed constantly for over two months. The flower was bright yellow and fully double with a delicious scent (unusual for Black-eyed Susans). It was such a gem that I contacted a plant breeder to see if he was interested. He definitely was and came to see it, but said the only way he could put it into production was if it proved to be a perennial. The following spring I waited excitedly to see if new green leaves would poke up next to my marker stake. Alas, they never did! My lovely Black-eyed Susan was a true ephemeral – here and gone in just one season.
Here are photos of the Rudbeckias growing in and around my vegetable garden last summer. Enjoy!