All about coneflowers


Perfect for adding lots of luminous colour to the garden in late summer and early autumn, coneflowers make excellent partners for Asters and other late-flowering daisies. The neatest and most consistent are Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii (Deam’s coneflower) and  Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm'. The latter, a mouthful of a name, is usually seed-raised so may be variable. Flower colour and size are slightly different. If a smaller, neater orange-yellow is preferred opt for Deam’s coneflower (R. fulgida var. deamii). If you want larger-rayed, less-formal, yellow flowers opt for ‘Goldsturm’, This was first spotted at a botanic garden in Czechoslovakia in 1937 by Heinrich Hagemman, an employee of the famous German nurseryman Karl Foerster. Both rudbeckias deserve a place in any garden, but ‘Goldsturm’ is better in naturalistic planting schemes, whilst the crisper Deam’s coneflower looks sprucer and sharper, like James Bond in a dinner-jacket.  

Taller by far are the leggy forms of Rudbeckia laciniata, which can reach man height or more. ‘Goldquelle’ is the double form and ‘Herbstsonne’ a simple single that has almost apple-green cones. Both are superb and both stay in clumps, without running into other things, as so many tall yellow daisies are wont to do. Both will create interesting winter silhouettes. Almost as tall is the Ratibida pinnata, a pale-yellow coneflower from Missouri that deserves to be grown more widely for its droopy-petalled flowers have great charm. This is a perfect foil for tall moor grasses, named forms of Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea. ‘Transparent’ will provide a beaded veil that moves and sways as the tiny beads darken to slate-black. ‘Poul Petersen’ is a new one,  with more upright purple awns that fade to mink-brown in winter. Or use ‘Heidebraut’, for its all-brown spikelets that gently bend and sway. Finally find room for the Korean feather grass, Calamagrostis brachytricha, because its glossy feathers are a soft mauve in early autumn and this flatters every aster going.