This is a bouquet in our living room today, October 24, that I gathered from our garden this weekend of pink-headed hydrangeas turning dusty brown and the deep burgundy foliage of Kousa dogwoods. I am showing it especially because of the seedheads I added–the almost-black cones on willowy stems of Rudbeckia subtomentosa. We are busy with fall cleanup, but I cannot bear to cut them down for their silhouettes are still pleasing in the garden and in bouquets.

Near our kitchen door, we have a handsome stand of Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers,’ a gracefully sprawling perennial to about five feet in height, with curious quilled petals of clear yellow. It blooms for much of August and September, attracting hummingbirds curiously (as it is only slightly funnel-shaped and is certainly not red), the stems swaying prettily in a breeze and partnering well with a large clump of Amsonia hubrichtii beside it.

The fields here at Church House are spattered with the yellow of our native black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, in July. It is a short-lived perennial, frequented by butterflies, with more grace in habit than the sort called ‘Goldsturm’ that I find stiff and unappealing in its harsh color and pin cushion-like growth. For grace, I also love the biennial R. triloba (in the photo above) with tall stems of diminutive black-eyed Susans growing in masses. It is lovely in the garden or in fields, and wonderful for cutting.

We brought two perennial sunflowers with us from Duck Hill: the floriferous hybrid helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and the very late and very tall H. giganteus ‘Sheila’s Sunshine.’  ‘Lemon Queen’ is a five-foot billowing plant the will spread with abandon if you let it. It has clear yellow flowers beloved by goldfinches. We have a bush by our entrance driveway that I love, for I can see it in the mornings when I am having breakfast, and it is invariably rustling with birds.

‘Sheila’s Sunshine ‘ is astonishing in its height, to about eight feet, and unusual in that it doesn’t start blooming much before early October. The flowers are small and very pale yellow and are covered with bees in the days before frost. The great stalks can be cut and brought indoors for a dramatic bouquet.

Thanks, perhaps, to global warming, the very late-blooming,  tender salvias are flowering lavishly this October. Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) is waving three-foot branches of scarlet racemes, which I was surprised to notice today is frequented by monarch butterflies as well as hummingbirds. I thought the monarchs were already on their way south. I have always included this sage in the herb garden because of its fragrant leaves–they really do smell of pineapple–but in the past frost often hit before the brilliant flowers had a chance to open. Not anymore. We have their showy flowers for weeks, mingling with the purple and white tubular blooms of Salvia x ‘Phyllis Fancy,’ one of the marvelous new hybrids probably related to S. guaranitica  and its handsome blue cultivars.  It is always worth it to add some of the tender salvias to the garden in spring for late summer and fall color. We usually order them from a mail-order catalog (such as Avant Gardens), although Bosco takes cuttings of some of his favorites in September and roots them with moderate success in the cold greenhouse, then pots them up, pinches them back, and keeps them going until we can plant them out next May.