Hurray for Heinrich Hagemann! Now that's a sentence you don't say every day. In fact, I'll wager that none of you has uttered it in the last 10 years. But we all should applaud our good buddy Heinrich, because it was his discerning eye that gave us one of the finest no-fuss flowers for summer--'Goldsturm' yellow coneflower.
How It Started
Our story begins in 1937 in what is now the Czech Republic. Nurseryman Heinrich Hagemann spies a superior form of yellow coneflower (known to many Southerners as black-eyed Susan). He notes that this form is shorter and more compact than the ordinary species (Rudbeckia fulgida) and flaunts larger, showier flowers.
Heinrich convinces his boss in Germany to propagate and market his fabulous find. Unfortunately, World War II intervenes, causing severe inconvenience for everybody. Finally, in 1949, 'Goldsturm' debuts. It's a bigger hit than Marlene Dietrich--well, at least among gardeners. Fifty years later in the U.S., the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) names 'Goldsturm' their Perennial Plant of the Year. Obviously, the PPA doesn't make snap decisions.
Let's Get Technical
'Goldsturm' is a named selection of a variety of yellow coneflower called sullivantii. Compared to the straight species, sullivantii is shorter, and its leaves grow progressively smaller as they go up the stem. 'Goldsturm' stands 24 to 30 inches tall. Each 3-inch bloom consists of golden yellow petals surrounding a black-to-dark brown cone. Depending on where you live, blooming may commence as early as late June and continue into September.
How To Grow
In most places, you can set out potted plants just about anytime--even in summer--as long as you keep them watered. This tough perennial prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It grows into a steadily expanding clump, which is easy to divide in early spring or fall. You can turn several clumps into a solid border in just a few years.
About the only problem that is associated with 'Goldsturm' is little black flea beetles that eat the flowerbuds. To treat, try spraying with horticultural oil according to label directions.
Not every 'Goldsturm' sold is the real McCoy. Some nurseries sell seed-grown plants that may grow taller than 'Goldsturm' with smaller flowers. True 'Goldsturm' comes from a division or rooted cutting. Ask before you buy.
While you're at it, raise a glass to Herr Hagemann. Not only did he discover an exceptional plant, but he also reportedly talked his boss out of naming it 'Blitzkrieg.'
"Perennial Winner" is from the August 2006 issue of Southern Living.