A sweet coneflower

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Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

This is Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers,' otherwise known as sweet coneflower, and it's a great example of a plant you read about but don't fully appreciate till you see it in the flesh. I found it at Chanticleer, in Wayne, in the cutting garden, I believe, but it was two weeks ago and the memory is fading. I've either not seen it since it came on the market in 2003 or didn't pay attention, but it's definitely on the radar now. You can tell it's related to the black-eyed Susan, and we all like that one well enough. But it's different - five feet tall or so with quill-shaped, rolled petals, giving it a spare, bright-eyed, pinwheel look. It apparently was named for the nurseryman and prairie restoration specialist who came upon it along a streambed in Illinois and gets its common name - sweet coneflower - from the slight vanilla scent it occasionally gives off. I didn't think to smell it. But it's definitely like the name says. Sweet.

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