Colorado Master Gardeners: Golds in the summer garden |

Colorado Master Gardeners: Golds in the summer garden

Vicky Barney/For Steamboat Today

As one who hates to water my garden, I’ve worried the past few weeks that the hot, dry weather would be hard on my flower garden, parching even the hardiest perennials and shortening their flowering seasons. But, some of the early bloomers are still striking (penstemons, sweet william, jupiter’s beard), and the late season bloomers are beginning to put on a beautiful show, particularly my golds.

Most visible of my golds is a cultivated variety of the black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), a member of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family. I planted an annual variety that reseeds (Rudbeckia hirta “Irish eyes”) and am pleased to see it has returned this year. It isn’t as showy, though, as a perennial variety I planted at the same time, a variety I thought was native, but now, I’m not so sure.

Each Susan is at least two feet tall and has hairy leaves and sturdy stems, holding a dozen or more daisy-like yellow flowers, each four inches in diameter. They are just now blooming and will likely flower for several weeks. New plants are appearing in other areas of my yard, even in the lawn, so they may be too aggressive in some gardens, but I am enjoying their proliferation, as they are drought tolerant, attract pollinators and provide seed for birds in the fall. The flowers also make for beautiful cut flower arrangements.

Another gold now in bloom is the native showy goldeneye (Heliomeris multiflora), which has been growing in my yard the past few years. Like the black-eyed Susan, the showy goldeneye is part of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family and produces daisy-like yellow flowers. It differs in that the flowers are smaller (up to 1 ½ inches in diameter) with golden-colored eyes. The leaves are narrow and smooth, and it grows as a single, slender stem or in a loose group up to three feet tall. In past years, the flowers have stayed beautiful for several weeks and attract pollinators, drawing bees and butterflies. Showy goldeneye can be seen blooming along the local trails.

The most recent addition to my gold collection is goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). It, too, is a member of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family and a native. It appeared in my yard last summer. The plants are more vigorous and abundant this summer, surprisingly aggressive for a native volunteer. In fact, they look like small bushes, growing in groups up to three feet in diameter and more than three feet tall. Blooms consist of clusters of tiny, yellow, daisy-like flowers along the top side of the uppermost branches, creating an image of yellow pyramids atop leafy stems. Pollinators love this plant, as well, and it, too, is blooming along the local trails. Unlike my other golds, however, goldenrod may be more aggressive than I like. I may need to corral it next spring.

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My favorite gold in the garden is not native to Colorado but grows happily in our climate. Easy to grow from seed, the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), a member of the poppy (Papaveraceae) family, is a delicate-looking and sprawling plant that grows about one foot tall, reseeds readily, provides color for most of the summer and is drought-tolerant and low-maintenance. I find it blooming in nooks and crannies around my yard all summer long. Its tenacity makes me smile.

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Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.

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