08 March 2009

Jodi's Gotta-Have Plants, Part 3: Never Enough Coneflowers.


Coneflowers are definitely a plant I can't get along without in our gardens. They were one of the first perennials I put in at Sunflower Hill, and they are so pleasing to the eye and to wildlife that I've just kept adding them. 

Despite their preference for good drainage, they do well for me, maybe because I've put them where the drainage is the best, and amended those beds with lots of compost and other organic matter to ensure decent drainage. They bloom for a long time up here, which just adds to their appeal, and they come on in mid-summer when some other plants are winding down. Some of them keep going until a hard frost, and probably more would if I were better at deadheading. 
We started out with the standard purple and white varieties, but then breeders began releasing new cultivars on a regular basis, and my addiction grew. And grew. And grew. 
E. 'Coral Reef' is far different from the old-fashioned coneflowers we all know and love, but I can't wait to get my hands on it. Some don't care for the double-flowered varieties, but so far I have yet to meet a coneflower that didn't incite instant plant-lust in me. 
(Photo by Terra Nova Nurseries.)

The first new-coloured varieties to be released, at least that I heard about, were two from the Chicago Botanical Gardens breeding program. I first saw 'Orange Meadowbrite' and 'Mango Meadowbrite' (above photo) at Canada Blooms five years ago, and tried the plants a year or so later with mixed success. My speculation was that they didn't care for the freeze-thaw cycles of a Maritime winter, but I was also concerned at the size and health of the plants when I bought them. Sometimes plant companies are in such a rush to introduce new varieties that they grow them on a little too fast without doing proper hardiness testing. However, last year I picked up two very-well-grown plants, one of each Meadowbrite, from my friend Rob Baldwin's nursery, and I expect they will return this spring. 

One of the exciting colour lines comes from Itsaul Plants in Georgia, who have at least half a dozen colour forms in their 'Big Sky' series. I managed to get both Big Sky 'Sunset' and 'Sundown' several years ago, but 'Sundown' is the only one in the lineup now. 


'Big Sky Sunrise' is one of my favourites, with its soft yellow petals, and it's done quite well for me here. It's nicely fragrant too, and definitely a bee and butterfly magnet. 

'Big Sky Sundown' is a handsome plant, but I can't always tell it apart from 'Sunset' especially if the labels go among the missing. 

'Harvest Moon' has a handsome gold colour, not that irritating brassy yellow of many later-summer flowering perennials. I wish it would multiply more rapidly but maybe I'll just have to get a couple more plants to add to the grouping. 

'Twilight' is probably popular with those fond of the movie and book series with the same name (count me out there, yawn), but I bought it for its nice red central cone and because I'm trying to collect the whole Big Sky Series. 

I extolled the virtues of 'Coconut Lime' in a previous post, but it's such a pretty thing I had to show it off again here. 

Pale pink is NOT my favourite colour, but I bought 'Hope' because Terra Nova Nurseries dedicates this to breast cancer survivors and to the memory of those lost to the disease; they donate a sum for every plant sold to a national association dedicated to finding a cure for the disease. I plant it in memory of my former mother in law, Marilyn, who was taken far too soon by this damn disease. 


(Photo by Terra Nova Nurseries.)
This is the well named 'Green Eyes', and its striking green cone is enough to make me track it down and tuck it in among the rest of the coneflower collection. 


(Photo by Terra Nova Nurseries.)
Now we come to the 'Oh-my-gawd-I-must-have-this' cultivars. As a former volunteer firefighter, I simply MUST add E. 'Flame Thrower' to my garden, don't you agree?


(Photo by Terra Nova Nurseries.)
I'm not sure what wag decided to name this beautiful plant 'Tomato Soup', but it's about the reddest of all the coneflowers. It's not available around here yet as far as I know, but when it is, you KNOW I'll have it. 


(Photo by Terra Nova Nurseries.)
Also from Terra Nova comes the equally waggishly-named Mac N Cheese. I may pass on this one because it's a lot like Sunrise and E. paradoxa, (one of the parent plants in some of these colourful crosses) and I'm not a fan of Kraft dinner. 


(Photo by Visions Photography )
Then there's this, which I have to have no matter what. Kylee mentioned it a few posts back, as has Graham Rice, and I haven't gotten this worked up over a coneflower since 'Green Envy' several years ago. Meet 'Hot Papaya'. What a perfect name for this plant, and why do I have a sudden urge for a papaya with hot sauce on it? The breeder of this plant also brought us 'Coconut Lime', so I'm hopeful to have 'Hot Papaya' joining the ranks in our garden within a year or so. 

You know what? The original plants were called purple coneflowers, but I've never found them to be particularly purple, more of a magenta--a colour I love, but it's not purple. I wonder when the breeders will actually give us a truly purple coneflower to add to the collection?

36 comments:

  1. I have heard people say before that Coneflowers are too common nowadays...I gasped when I heard this! They are easy enough for beginning gardeners, yet beautiful enough and multi-functional enough (beauty, wildlife, drought-tolerant, etc) to please the most critical of gardeners. Thanks for sharing all of these cultivars. I will be on the lookout for some this summer! I have had good luck growing the common purple coneflowers from seed.

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  2. I absolutely love Cone Flowers! Gardens are not gardens without them!
    My neighbors has the Orange colors,
    boy they are something to see! but what they charge here for Orange color is outrageous.

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  3. I really like the 'Flame Thrower" and the "Tomato Soup" what fun colors! I have the standard purple one and it is covered with Gold Finches all season. I do not dead head or clip early in the fall. I let the birds get all the seed they can. It is a circus in the garden with all the Gold Finches!

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  4. Coneflowers are great plants. Last fall I uprooted and grouped a bunch of 'Magnus' with several clumps of agastache 'Heather Queen.' I'm hoping for a nice display. 'Razzmatazz' and 'Double Delight' look like twin sisters. I have them both and am very impressed. 'Twilight' looks similar to 'Fatal Attraction' growing in my garden.

    A gardening fried of mine has lost some of her Big Sky Series too. I haven't grown any of them but I'm thinking they must be somewhat fussy.

    I'm intrigued by 'Tomato Soup' but if it's an orange red, I won't be swooning. This is the first I've seen of 'Hot Papaya.' Nice.

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  5. I love them too. I bought 'Sundown' last summer and am hoping it returns.
    Thanks for sharing so many varieties!

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  6. Flame Thrower can have a home in my garden any day.....Beautiful!

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  7. Wow, if anything reconciled me to coneflowers, this post would be it. But not-great damage and partial shade equals disaster. However, I do look forward to admiring yours as the season progresses.

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  8. jodi,

    i love flamethrower! i just bought 4 of the new varieties, but i missed that one! i'm getting coconut lime, sundown, pink double delight and tiki torch... thanks for an informative post!

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  9. Hi, Jodi, love the coneflowers. I accidentally deleted your comment on my blog instead of publishing it. I'm so sorry - if you can be bothered, do leave another one.
    Best wishes, Victoria

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  10. Just when I think I've seen them all, new varieties come out. While I'm not a fan of orange, I'd be tempted to grow 'Flame Thrower' just for the name. Speaking of names, I'm not thrilled that 'Twilight,' which I do have, is now going to be associated with the book series, which I have not read. I guess if I were a teen girl, I'd be thrilled.

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  11. Stunning coneflowers! We especially liked 'Flame Thrower' - what a great colour. Coneflowers in such variety are hard to get here in Germany, the magenta one and the white one being the classic ones sold. Mom once bought a cream yellow one which died during its first Winter. Currently we are completely coneflowerless. A deplorable state of affairs, seeing how beautiful they are!

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  12. Oh,now you've done it! I'm going to have to find most all of these to add to the garden. Hmmmm... I really should buy groceries at some point...but not before I find and buy 'Coral Reef'. :-)

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  13. I like all but those doubles. They are such easy plants to grow and look great in the garden. We have a couple that came up from seed but I bought a couple from the Big Sky series a couple years ago. Great post!

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  14. The colors of the new varieties are just wonderful. I love 'Flame Thrower' and 'Tomato Soup'. I'll have to look for those.

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  15. Jodi - what a fabulous post - I love coneflowers but have only just started growing them - some of the cultivars are such a price!
    Think I might have to bookmark this for future reference!
    K

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  16. I adore coneflowers. Unfortunately, we seem to be too wet and too far above sea-level for them to grow successfully...but I love all of yours :)

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  17. Fantastic coneflowers Jodi! I have always been a purist when it comes to CFs! But that seems to be changing with exposure to all the fantastic new coneflowers. I've been working with a garden designer on habilitating my patio garden and even she is urging me to plant Twilight and other 'not purple' coneflowers! gail

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  18. Jodi, you and I are going to be on the same mission this spring! I just love the new ones and might have to suck it up and pay a little more than I usually do, just to have them. I know Great Garden Plants has a few of them. I've ordered from them before and they send nicely-sized plants.

    On another note...my weeping willow has gotten large enough that it now completely shades my coneflowers! I'm thinking I'd better be moving them this spring. I hate the thought of doing this, since my coneflower section is quite large, but I know they'll do better in full sun.

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  19. Hi Jodi, I agree they are a most have flower; unfortunate they are very difficult to grow in my tropical garden. I had some success last year with the purple variety, but this winter none of the seeds germinated.

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  20. I need to get Wing Nut over here to look at this post! I've been after her for a couple of summers to add some of these to our garden. She's not a big fan. But I think we can sell her on the Hot Papaya!

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  21. The Hot Papaya is extraordinary, isn't it? It's my favourite of all the "new of 09" models. :) Not only for the colour, but for the bloom shape, too. I hope you find it. I'm keeping my eyes peeled, too.

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  22. I read your entire post and my! not a single mention of the valuable medicinal quality of the herb Echinacea. I too adore this plant. ;~)

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  23. I love coneflowers' easy-breezy attitude, so much so that I include an image of them in my blog header. I've never had much luck with the new cultivars, however. They tend to bloom the first year, struggle the second, and fade away the third in my garden.

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  24. Heavens, Jodi, that's a lot of varieties! Lovely, too.
    --Kate

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  25. Jodi, Coneflowers are at the top of my must-have list, too! In fact, I named them my signature flower some time back in response to a meme. Despite all the new cultivars, I'm still partial to the traditional "purple" ones, but I do have some "White Swan" seedlings I'm trying to nurture, and I'd like to add some of the native prairie coneflowers to the garden. You can't say enough good things about coneflowers--and the birds, bees, and butterflies all love them!

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  26. This makes me want to get out there and start planting Jodi. I love the orange varieties. I will have to look for more for our garden.

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  27. I love coneflowers too, but I have to confess, my favorites by far are the purple and white ones.

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  28. I LOVE the 'tomato soup'! And the newest 'Purple of all Purples', by Jody, will be my Favorite! Quick, get them to create it, I would snap that up in a milisecond;-)

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  29. Hi Jodi
    How are you doing ? .. I have a weakness for these flowers myself .. and Sunrise is one of my favorites because it is so reliable. Along with Pixie Meadowbrite. Harvest Moon is that amazing gold is so true, not brassy but it gets your attention for sure ! Merlot grabbed me a couple of years ago, a friend MADE me get Vintage Wine .. what can I say I have a bunch of them and didn't keep them tagged or in order so I am in trouble with "who is who" too ! maybe we need a support group ? Because I am loving the new ones coming out too .. where the heck I will put them is another headache altogether ; )

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  30. Count me as one going ga ga over them. I planted up 5 packs of them today and more are coming. They bloom forever and attract butterflies. Very nice writeup about them. You have a lovely variety. I like the pale pink a lot.

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  31. Oh MY! You've introduced me to some beauties I haven't seen before and now I WANT them!!!! I think this is why garden bloggers shouldn't visit other garden blogs... gives them ideas. ; )

    Hugs,
    Cindy

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  32. Jodi - you are RIGHT ON about the magic of coneflowers. I just love the variety. I pulled out a few of the wild versions last year to make space for some of the new types. I certainly don't have as many as you have (or hope to have) though.

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  33. The native coneflowers I got from a neighbor lady died out after being shaded by a dog kennel we put in. I have had some white swans a number of years that reverted back to the purple. I got Harvest Moon and Kim's Knee High last year. I hope they made it through the winter.

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  34. I forgot to say how pretty yours are. I like all of them!

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  35. I agree- one can never have too many coneflowers! I have planted tons of rudbeckia and echinacea in my garden over the past two years- and I still NEED more!

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