Bright and beautiful! Plant a riot of rudbeckias if you want your beds bedecked with brilliant yellow blooms, says Monty Don
- Monty Don says no yellow plant stands as tall nor shines as brightly as rudbeckia
- Advises sowing in trays or pots in spring before planting out in June or July
- UK-based gardening expert also answers questions from Weekend readers
This is the season of ochres, sepias, caramels, oranges and yellows. Heleniums, tithonias, sunflowers, helianthus, echinacea and coreopsis all provide elements of this range of colours but at the yellow end of this palette none stands as tall nor shines as brightly as rudbeckia.
I’ve grown a lot of annual rudbeckias – which are much smaller than their perennial cousins – including R. hirta ‘Gloriosa Daisies’ and R. h. ‘Cappuccino’. With the latter I sowed two packets of seed which gave me hundreds of vibrant flowers that start out pure yellow and then take on a velvety-brown stain to their outer petals.
The great thing about annuals is you can place them as part of a mixed border wherever there are gaps, so you can effectively paint with them, using their colours to enhance, complement and contrast with your permanent planting of perennials and shrubs.
Monty Don shares his advice for thriving rudbeckia as the season for yellow blooms begins. Pictured: Monty with rudbeckia ‘Gloriosa Daisies’
There’s a wide range of annual rudbeckias. ‘Cappuccino’ is lovely, as are the almost orange ‘Irish Eyes’ and the darker ‘Nutmeg’ or the mixed ‘Rustic Dwarfs’.
Q Despite having sprayed our pear tree, some of the pears and all the leaves have brown spots. Do we have to get rid of it?
Ann Rosborough, Somerset
A Brown spots could mean a number of things such as canker, pear rust, and pear brown spot on the fruit but all are essentially fungal. Ventilation is the best defence – spraying does no good – so prune to allow air to flow through the tree.
Q We planted 3m-high Photinia ‘Red Robin’ trees in October 2018, which were staked and have established well. When should we take the stakes out please?
Jane Taylor, Staffordshire
A As a rule all tree stakes should be removed after three years. Once the root system is growing and new growth is established, the sooner the stakes are removed, the stronger the tree will be as flexing in wind makes it more resilient.
Q Is there anything I can do to stop black spots on my rose bushes?
Margaret Tetlow, Cheshire
A Black spot is, like the problems afflicting the pear in the first question, a fungal disease. Prune your bushes so they are open and have plenty of air and accept that although it looks unsightly, it does not harm the flowers.
Write to Monty Don at Weekend, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email [email protected] Please include your full name and address. We regret Monty can’t reply to letters personally.
They are half-hardy so seed should be sown in trays or pots in spring and the plants pricked out into individual pots to develop into strong plants before planting out in June or July. They are tough and thrive despite neglect; once planted out after the last frost they need no attention at all.
Perennial rudbeckias are among the most accommodating of all herbaceous perennials, growing in almost all conditions, although they do best in full sun and in soil that isn’t too dry. They suffer from very few ailments and consistently produce glorious flowers in the range of yellow to orange from late July right through to November.
All are characterised by a prominent central boss or cone that is either green or brown. They are very closely related to echinacea, although rudbeckias tend to be longer lasting, spread more readily and all in all are easier to grow.
They do hybridise – the ‘Summerina’ series are a cross between rudbeckia and echinacea that are fast-growing like rudbeckia but with the extra hardiness of echinacea.
R. fulgida has a very black central boss. It grows best in soil that does not dry out, though the variety deamii is more drought-tolerant so is ideal for drier soils.
‘Goldsturm’ is the most widely available variety, with lovely egg-yolk yellow splaying from its central boss. R. fulgida is rhizomatous, which means it will gradually spread, but is easy to lift and divide in spring every few years to create both more groups and more vigour within individual plants.
Rudbeckia laciniata is a tall plant with stems reaching 2m high in my rich soil. The leaves are deeply lobed and the flower heads have petals that hang like deflated shuttlecocks with the cones held high.
‘Herbstsonne’ has single flowers with an attractive green cone. ‘Goldquelle’ has bright-yellow double flowers, looking rather like a very tall, bright-yellow marigold.
If you find that R. laciniata is growing too tall for your borders, you can curb their height and at the same time promote extra flowering by pinching or cutting off the growing tips when they reach about 60cm tall. This will be some time around the end of June and before they begin to flower.
MONTY’S PLANT OF THE WEEK: PHILLYREA LATIFOLIA
Monty says Phillyrea latifolia (pictured) is not completely hardy, so will need wrapping in fleece in very cold weather
A few weeks ago I planted a pair of Phillyrea latifolia and regard them as an exciting addition to the Mound Garden. Phillyrea is an evergreen member of the olive family and comes from the Mediterranean.
It is an excellent coastal tree, reaching over nine metres when mature, tolerating salt, wind and sandy soil. The small, thick green leaves make it a good specimen for tight clipping as well as a dense evergreen hedge.
It is not completely hardy, but will tolerate temperatures down to -10°C, so will need wrapping in fleece in very cold weather.
THIS WEEK’S JOB: COLLECTING SEED
Now is the time to collect seed. Either cut the seed heads and upend them into brown paper envelopes or place an envelope over the seed head, seal, then snip off the stem. Store in a cool, dry place. In two weeks the seeds will be dry and can be sieved into paper packets.