Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thinning the 'Goldsturm' Brown Eyed Susans

There comes a time in all of our lives when we must part ways with the things we love. It is that way with my Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm'; which had gotten way too thick. They have literally taken over and I can't see anything but them so it was time to thin them. What a job!

This small raised bed on the back side of our chain link fence near the driveway made quite an impact in the summer. The problem is that the bed is all yellow and nearly all one type of plant. You can't even see the lavenders, daylilies, Mexican sage, or phlox can you? I hate to think plants and get rid of them or replant elsewhere (which means more gardens), but it had to be done.

Back in the spring when these guys were just coming out of dormancy would have been the best time to thin them out and allow room for their neighbors. Silly me, I reasoned the plants could fight it out and wow what a big impact all the brown eyes would have when they were in bloom! That was before I lost sight of my other plants and decided enough was enough. Out they came! The first thing I did was cut off all blossoms. I know it is sad but I think it will help spare the plant's energy if the blooms are gone. Then I began the process of dismantling this garden. The 'Goldsturm' is a very hard plant to dig out. The roots and plants were all joined and well entrenched in the garden. There was more than one casualty due to the separation of roots from plants in the removal but I comfort myself in the fact the plants left behind will bounce back better than if the plants had not been removed.
I learned a big lesson having to thin these plants. That lesson being to do it when they are small and to do it religiously so that they do not out compete their neighbors. While the mass of brown eyes is pretty I wanted more variety and textures in this garden bed. After I added a good inch of compost and turned the soil, I planted six 'Blue Hill' salvia, three Patrina scabiosifolia 'Nagoda', and one 'Immaculee' peony. Already in the bed were two lavenders, one Mexican sage, and last but not least, a few of the brown eyes. There is also a crepe myrtle growing in the bed and it will stay. You can bet I'll be pulling the excess brown eyes next spring before they get too big. I don't want to be caught with the brown eyes being too thick....

in the garden....


  1. Wow Tina, I can't imagine having to pull these out, I just bought three more gallon sized plants yesterday. I just can't get them going here. Too much competition from other things maybe. I believe they are the perfect foil for the daylilies, offering color after the flower period is over and strong enought to compete. Lavender does not like any competition, for me anyway. It would be the thing I would have moved out. I look forward to seeing the Patrina too, an very pretty plant seldom used. Don't work too hard! :-)

  2. I'm with you! I thinned out some in spring, but not nearly enough. I gave away what I could, but have such a hard time throwing away plants I didn't finish the job. Mine have GOT to be thinned out more next year. They are my very favorite flower and I need to keep them pretty and healthy.

  3. Tina I will most likely be doing this next Spring myself. But I have to say I like the odd ones volunteering ? in different spots that the soil is more sand than anything else .. and the random way they do it is appealing .. but YES ! they can get a little too crazy at times : ) .. but then so can I ? ;-)

  4. I always have tons of Rudbeckia to give away to folks...most don't want it anymore as they are thinning/sharing themselves.

  5. I hate tossing plants to the side, but sometimes we just can’t find anyone to give them to. Hope you didn’t work yourself too hard.--Randy

  6. Good morning all!

    Frances, I so value your opinion on plants and have to laugh at you for saying to pull the lavender. You have a great touch with lavender so it probably grows like the rudbeckia there-just opposite of me. I am most excited about patrina. I purchased it at Summer Celebration and am only getting around to planting it. It blooms yellow in the summer too so I hope it takes and keeps those rudbeckia at bay. I have tons to give away of these too so I may just pack them up for you one day when I'm heading that way:)

    Linda, I never knew they could spread so darned much! I will be diligent in the future as this was a huge job-in the rain no less.

    Joy, I let the odd ones be as I too like the small groups of them here and there-small being the key word. These huge groups do nothing for me so I thinned them out. They can quickly take over and get crazy-yes like us all at times.

    Janet, You are that neighbor with the cucumbers and tomatoes that keeps coming:) Imagine not wanting flowers! But I can understand as they get to be too much after a while.

    Jamie and Randy, I worked so hard on that day that I've not been back in the garden since! Did I mention it was raining too?? Ha! Great day! It is hard to toss plants but editing has to be a part of design at some point. For me it has come. These extras were relegated to behind hubby's garage where they can take over to their hearts content. Your garden is beautiful so I am thinking you either plan well or edit.

  7. Gee, I probably would of let the brown eyes take over and move the lavender, HA!

  8. Rudbeckia is one of those plants that needs room to roam! I hope to get some established in our brushy areas as wildflowers. They can grow as big as they wish out there!

  9. That's quite a job! I do love mass plantings of BESs, though. It just looks like a sunshine and summer to me!

    My BESs need to be thinned for health reasons. I've had some blackening of the stems on some which I think may be attributed to crowded conditions.

    I spent a few mornings ripping out "My Favorite Mistake" hardy ageratum. It was easy to remove. There were places where it was actually getting too much sun and the soil was too dry, so it had taken on a crispy look!


  10. Hi Tina, wish I lived closer. I would have helped you move them and taken a few home. I can never get enough. They do well here but plants don't spread as fast in this heavy clay soil. Good luck with the new and moved plants. Hope they settle in well.

  11. Tina, I think a mass of them looks good! But if you want the other plants to show, then it is time for ruthless efficiency (I saw this term today on Blotanical). Good luck!

  12. Tina,
    You had your work cut out for you with that thinning. I always have a difficult time ripping anything out, it was such an effort to get it established in the first place. The bed looks fabu!

  13. I pulled tons of them this spring when the ground was soggy so they were easy to remove. I had to toss most of mine as they were diseased last year. I posted on them. Anyway, the few that looked good enough, I planted them up by the white fencing to blend in with the Trumpet Vine. They can duke it out. A few seeded through out the garden and I left some of those and am enjoying them. But not enjoying the constant plucking of young seedlings in the gravel pathway. Argggggg… Note to self: no self-seeding plants in the planters by the gravel paths…

  14. I was so happy last year to be able to donate my thinned out rudbeckias to a local group building a rain garden in a park. Win-win! :)

  15. Tina what a big job. They put on a beautiful show didn't they? But I can certainly understand you wanting more of a variety in your garden. I'm sure it looks beautiful as everything I've seen in your gardens always does.
    It got below 50 last night and is suppose to be 72 today AND tomorrow. WHOOPIE!!! I can breathe and move again. I think I've lost a few plants in this horrible heat wave we've had. Thank goodness we're cooling a little - maybe I can do some posts again and visit the blogs I've missed reading lately.

  16. Glad you have had all the rain you have had this summer cause if you were in an oven the hard job would have been next to impossible. It sure will be pretty behing the garage. I'm with Cameron....sunshine and summer!!

  17. I agree it's best to thin in spring Tina but sometimes the plants need to fully mature before the whole picture comes into view. I've had to do it the hard way before too (not with Rudbeckias but with others). I'm sure they'll recover and your bed will be all the better because of it. What a cool Moth in the previous post too!

  18. Good lesson to remember. If I had a nickel for every time I did thought I'd let something go in too small of a space and regretted it later...

  19. Thanks for the warning, Tina. I suppose there can be too much of a good thing. I just planted some Brown Eyed Susans - not sure if they're this variety, but I may divide them soon just to keep them in check.

  20. Some plants put up a constant fight in spite of our best efforts, don't they? I'm betting next year (like Skeeter suggested) that you'll be finding new recruits to contend with. I hope your back is okay!

  21. Dawn, Too much color for me and I so love lavender. You and Frances are on the same lines.

    Dave, That's the ticket-give them room to roam and enjoy. They are sure bright and do well in the shade.

    Cameron, As sad as it is to see the plants go I think ripping the extras out is sometimes most cathartic. Love the term 'my favorite mistake'.

    Marnie, I would be happy to donate you a whole bunch for sure. Cannas and all sorts of things are disappearing from here to friends. I need to really edit. Give your brown eyes some time and they'll spread soon.

    Tatyana, I like that-ruthless efficiency! Sometimes that is what it takes in the garden.

    Rosey, I agree so totally. You wait and you sweat and hope for fullness then when it comes you rip it out? Seems a bit unfair to me but it is how it is sometimes:)

    Skeeter, I do not know what is about gravel but it seems plants love to self seed in it. Maybe the moisture and coolness? Hmmm. Self seeders are good but you just have to know when enough is enough. Such is life in the garden. Glad you got yours ripped out early enough.

    Monica, Now the only thing that would make it more perfect is to have them come dig them out! I'm working on that for my plants here:)

    Linda, Glad you can relax ans not sweat so much. 50 is quite cold. We freeze when it goes below 70 here at night and the a/c goes off. Ha! Soon enough we'll all be longing for the warmth of summer.

    Mom, You are so right about the rain. It seems more like spring but better because it is so warm. I've been planting, dividing, thinning and whatever I need to do in the garden because all the rain and heat has helped things settle in. Normally you couldn't even dig a 2 inch hole in the ground in summer with no rain. This year is the best year ever here.

    Kathleen, Glad you liked the moth. I am surprised only one other person has seen it before as they are reputed to be common. Now probably everyone will be seeing them. Yes, thinning is good and we must get to that point at some point. It is inevitable.

    Megan, Planting in too small of a place is a major problem for me too. At the time I like then hate it when I have to move it. Urrr! It is the way of things though.

    JGH, That is it! Too much of a good thing. I'd had enough and ripped out not only these but many from another bed too. I felt so good. Keep an eye on yours.

    W2W, That is it exactly! They were fighting me and did not want to leave. Good thing my shovel is sharp and my will stronger:)

  22. Love those brown eyes. So pretty in mass. But as you say sometimes it gets to be a bit much. If I were closer I would have taken some off your hands. lol
    Most in my garden is kaput from heat & humidity. Will be glad when it cools some.
    Over cast here, hot means for showers.
    Hope all are having a wonderful day.

  23. Hi Tina -- I love the brown-eyed susans --and could never have too many, hehehe. I like how mine spread out to areas where I "accidentally" pulled other flowers. I can't remember what is where sometimes so I yank out a nice clump and those brown-eyed gals pulled thru for me this year and filled in the gap, rofl.
    Another nice humid day today -school tomorrow. Odds and ends to make sure we're all ready -- I will miss all my kiddos:( Lil Bundle won't know what happened when it gets quiet here -hahaha.
    Have a fabulous day everyone! Ciao

  24. Hi Lola, I surely would've sent some your way too. The more I give away the less I have to replant. It was too much work. I hope it cools off soon for you too. Muggy here.

    Anonymous, I can hardly believe it! Sophomores! Wow! We are going to get the schedule, haircut and new clothes here in a minute or two. You'll enjoy your quiet time with the baby. He'll enjoy it with you too.

  25. Rudbeckia do well here also, Tina. I like to concentrate them in one area since they will take over anyway.

  26. What a job! So glad I read this. I just planted 3 of them this spring for the first time and they are already huge. I'll keep an eye on them next spring when they are small so they don't take over. -Jackie

  27. What I would do for a stand like that! lol. The bunnies eat every bit of mine...well they leave me a little, but not much. Ugh!

  28. They do look pretty in a big group like that, but I know what you mean about it being all one type of plant. Those Susans can be hard to move. I did that last year with daisies and daylilies in one bed. I'm so glad I did it, and I shared most of the divided plants with my sister.
    It sounds like it's going to look really pretty with your new additions.

  29. I can imagine how hard this must have been for you, Tina, both literally and figuratively. I just planted a couple "Goldsturm" this spring so I'm still in the stages of hoping they will spread next year. But I do understand--I have the same problem with my coneflowers. I thought I had dug up many of the seedlings this spring, but obviously not. I am going to have to be more ruthless next spring, or they will take over the whole garden!

  30. Donna, I had no idea they would take over-it seemed like overnight. A good idea to concentrate them in specific areas.

    Jackie, Get ready for them to spread like wild. Then you can spread them around the garden. They are most pretty!

    Helen, Bad ole bunnies! Glad they leave you a few at least. We have a bunny too-a bold little one that even goes into the backyard. This is only the second live one I've seen in the 8 years I've lived here. I don't think it will last long and I won't miss it after hearing of them eating everything! Bad ole bunnies!

    Catherine, They were quite a job to move. Next time I think I'll be putting them on Freecycle or tossing them. Your sister was a lucky lady to get your thinnings.

    Rose, This year was the first year I had seedlings of coneflowers and could not believe it! I didn't even know what they were but moved some around early enough. They are a flower that will take over too for sure. The 'Goldsturm' spreads by runners I guess you call them? It is all a big mat and a bit harder to move but worth it. Put them with some coneflowers and they'll duke it out well once they get going.

  31. I am smiling at this post Tina! One gardener's weed is another's perfect plant! The spreading BESs is fine with me...but I can totally get how it might not be to your liking! I adore that it will happily grow in the shade here! gail