My first encounter with Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Goldquelle’ was in front of my great-grandma’s garage. The mass of five foot tall, cane-like stems bearing sizzling, double yellow flowers towered over me and drew an unfamiliar phrase from my lips: “What the hell is that?” In rural Stratford, Iowa grew this unfamiliar plant whose presence I had never noted before on visits to my great-grandma’s rugged and vigilant garden. My first assertions were that it must be a Heliopsis or Helianthus, relying foolishly on the dazzling floral display alone. Several photos and a few pleading emails to perennials guru Allan Armitage turned up that it was likely Rudbeckia laciniata or Rudbeckia nitida.
Upon further investigation, seeing that I was not content until I had a name for the new addition to my garden, I discovered a sea of stale controversy surrounding the taxonomic organization of these two species. In horticulture, go figure! As it turns out most agree that the cultivar ‘Goldquelle’ is a hybrid of R. nitida and R. laciniata though most places elect to use the latter as the correct epithet. Regardless of the troublesome toil of taxonomists (how alliterative), no sweat or tears should be shed as this is a fine garden plant.
In a gardening society hesistant to use short plants, cutleaf coneflower is championed by those revolters who seek vision of the sky. Drawing the eye up to the double flowers of golden ray flowers with a contrasting green disc, this spectacle of the mid-July garden is native to roughly two thirds of North America. Long-lived in the wild and the garden, they provide a yearly treat when in bloom and serve as a striking structural element with deeply cut foliage. Plants must be placed in full sun as the slightest shade will cause that striking pillar to disintegrate into a floppy mess.