Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers
by Jack Ruttle
Billowing, brilliant goldenrod among purple asters is a classic native plant combination that is the glory of late summer and early autumn in North American meadows and along roadsides. But it's a scene that hasn't been easy to duplicate in gardens. Most native goldenrods (Solidago species) are too big to fit comfortably with other perennials. As if that wasn't enough, some of the most common species are highly invasive plants. Planting Solidago canadensis among other flowers is like planting a mint that gets 5 feet tall. Fortunately, the situation is changing. Some of the better clump-forming natives are appearing at nurseries and in catalogs. A couple of excellent selections have been named and more are likely to follow.
Until recently, the only well-behaved goldenrods available were varieties of the European species, S. virgaurea. But these bloom in midsummer and finish well before the New England and New York asters begin their late-season display. Although the European varieties are certainly worth growing, it's the newer varieties of American species that produce the stunning fall effects.
It's worth repeating that goldenrod is not the cause of hay fever or other pollen allergies. The real culprit is ragweed, an inconspicuous plant that releases pollen while goldenrod is in bloom. That inaccurate bit of folklore is slow in dying, and is one reason goldenrod is not more popular in American gardens.