It's all about the flags -- or at least it is at most university plant trials.
True to form, Tiger Eye Gold rudbeckia is still commanding attention. Though this showy rudbeckia has been out for a while, it still captures its share of orange flags and it is looking like at champion at the Columbus Botanical Garden, too.
Let me explain the flags. When you visit a plant trial on open house day, you are given an orange flag to place in the bed by your favorite plant. The will help judge consumer or grower satisfaction on the festive day. Tiger Eye Gold is still a winner.
Tiger Eye Gold is the first F1-hybrid rudbeckia, and as you look into fiery blossom you will see orange and yellow with a dark brown eye lined in gold. Tiger Eye Gold is what many consider to be a gloriosa daisy, and these plants have really been showing out in our garden for the past two months, under mostly monsoon conditions. This is a testimony to their sturdy habit.
Some know the gloriosa daisy as black-eyed Susans, or maybe even yellow or orange coneflowers. Tiger Eye Gold gets about 24 inches tall with an equal spread. The flowers are not as large as Indian Summer, which we might call softball size, but you will get a bounty of flowers about the size of a tennis ball.
Tiger Eye Gold performs best in full sun with fertile well-drained soil. Tight compact clay or soggy soil yields less than satisfactory results. Improving the drainage of our soil was key to the dazzling performance we have had in such a rainy year.
If you find yourself needing to improve your soil, incorporate 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like compost, peat or humus before planting. We actually removed tight clay and brought in a prepared mix ideally suited to both annuals and perennials.
While many plant shoppers have a tendency toward instant gratification and buy them already in full bloom, you'll find them acclimating to your landscape better if you buy a transplant just comprised of healthy foliage that is still actively growing.
Space your plants 18 to 24 inches apart planting at the same depth they are growing in the container. Since these are tall plants, you'll want to place them to the middle or pack of the border. Plant them in bold drifts versus spot planting. They are the quintessential cottage garden plant and look great in combination with spiky blue flowers. We have ours growing in combination with the Salvia Indigo spires and Blue Fortune anise hyssop. For the front of the border try using petunias like Blue Wave or EZ Rider Blue, or the new Surdiva scaevola.
Tiger Eye Gold is also well-suited in designer artistic containers. Try using it as the center or thriller plant and partnered with complementary colored flowers like
Summer Wave torenias and Surdiva light blue scaevola. Add a touch of a grassy element like Evergold carex and you'll have a stunning decorative piece for the porch patio or deck.
Keep your eyes open for another rudbeckia capturing a lot of flags of admiration -- Gold Rush. With plants showing up at your garden center like Tiger Eye Gold, you have to admit it is a fun time to be a gardener.
Norman Winter, is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus, Ga., and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden."