We've started this year's seed distribution scheme as usual.  Please send us your seeds as soon as they are ready.

Featured Conservation Plants: December 2013

December 2013:
Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Starcadia Razzle Dazzle’

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This plant has been in the Conservation Scheme since 2005 after it had been identified as a potential candidate in Wisley trials by Sue Pinsent (a previous HPS chairman). It has been widely grown by HPS groups in the Conservation Scheme and in virtually all cases has received glowing praise as a garden worthy plant.

It is very surprising therefore that it has not become widely available and widely grown as it is a superb back of the border plant. ‘Stacadia Razzle Dazzle’ is a clump forming hardy perennial plant growing rapidly and vigorously to about 1.5 metres. The stems are usually so strong that they do not require support. The dark green leaves are deeply divided and look good during the period before the flowers appear. They also provide a good backing to shorter, earlier flowering plants. The top most leaves on the stem are quite different in that they are not deeply divided.

As the new leaves emerge in spring (or even before) growers need to be on the lookout for slugs and snails which find the young vegetation irresistible. Usual slug and snail control measures are successful in preventing too much damage to the plant. However this Rudbeckia is also a tasty morsel for rabbits and deer where control can prove to be little more difficult!

The single yellow flowers are typical of the Rudbeckia family. They are large - at least 5-7cm across - and maybe larger depending on the soil fertility. There is a central cone, green in colour, consisting of a large number of very small florets and these are surrounded by the yellow petals (bracts). These remain on the flower until all the florets have been pollinated. This may be for a much of the months of July and August even extending into the first week of September.

The flowers are highly attractive to bumblebees and provide a valuable source of pollen and nectar for these very important pollinating insects. Honey bees do not visit the flowers possibly because their tongue is shorter than that of the bumblebee and they cannot reach the nectaries at the base of the florets.

The seed heads are an attractive feature in their own right being large and conical in shape, turning from green to nearly black as they ripen. As the seed heads develop and the leaves start to yellow the plant can start to look a little untidy. However, ignore the leaves and enjoy the seed heads as will the birds when the seeds are ripe.

Propagation by division in the spring is very easy. Pieces of the plant can be dug up and broken into sections. Each section will rapidly develop into a good sized plant, particularly if put into the soil rather than left in a pot.

The RHS Plant Finder for 2013 lists more suppliers than ever before which is good news for a very desirable late summer perennial.

The Conservation scheme involves HPS members in growing these plants and documenting the best way to grow and propagate them. The plants are distributed across the country with many local groups and individual growers being involved.

The scheme is open to all HPS members. More information about the scheme can be found here.

Since the present scheme started in 1998, we have been successful in conserving over 30 plant varieties that are, in our opinion, all worthy of being grown in British gardens. However, there are still a large number of potentially garden worthy plants in need of conservation.

If you are a interested in making this (or any other of our conservation plants) available on a commercial basis, please contact the National Coordinator.

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