Apparently, according to the ‘English Garden’, this very agreeable plant, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henryk Eilers’ is one of Nigel Dunnett‘s favourite plants of the last two decades- I would agree wholeheartedly. It is not a ‘blingy’ plant- rather, it is a good, strong grower that has even come through our terrible drought this summer, though, admittedly, the flowers are the size of a fingernail, tiny in comparison with these photographs of 2 years ago.
It grows as well as ‘Goldsturm’, and like ‘Goldsturm’, will take pretty much whatever is thrown at it, in terms of weather and conditions. But it should become a slender giant, up to 1.5m or taller, with supple, strong stems that bounce back, and these lovely, quilled flowers with the typical dark chocolate Rudbeckia centre. The yellow is softer than ‘Goldsturm’, and the quilling gives the whole flower a delicate appearance. But delicate, it ain’t.
It was discovered alongside a stream near railway tracks in open prairie in Illinois by a retired nurseryman, Henry Eilers. It first appeared on the commercial market in 2003 and has won hearts across the world ever since. I bought it in, maybe, 2007, when I found a small nursery, Groenstraat 13, in Belgium that specialised in Dan Hinckley introductions, and it arrived safe and sound in the post. Rik from ‘Groenstraat 13’ called it ‘Henryk Eilers’ and because it reminds me of Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music’, I like to keep the Flemish version of the name. For more about this great plant, see this article by North Creek Nurseries in Pennsylvania.
It has toiled this year, but, I have a mind to dig it up and divide it sooner rather than later. My experiment, inspired by Monty Don’s visit to Jimi Blake and Hunting Brook Gardens in Ireland, in early division of two clumps of Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ has been a real success- I am now a proud parent of 35 rapidly growing small plants in pots as opposed to two rather exhausted parent plants in a dried out garden. Not bad, eh?!