02 September 2012

Enraptured with Echinaceas

It's no secret to regular readers of bloomingwriter that I am hopelessly addicted to coneflowers. They've been putting on a show here in my garden, despite the dry weather, for the past 4-6 weeks, and while there's a bit of a pause right now, they are pushing new buds and preparing to show some more once we've had a bit more rain. 

A few words about the weather, before I move on to talking more about echinaceas: July and August have been the driest months I've ever experienced in the 13 years I've lived here at my home. July wasn't so bad, but August saw so little rain, and so little fog, that even my 'lawn' pretty much stopped growing. And unbelievably, I stopped planting about 3 weeks ago, because the soil was so dry and I decided it was easier to tend plants in containers than drag the hose all around the yard watering them. We've had some rain now, but much of eastern Canada could use a lot more rain to bring up wells, irrigate crops, dampen down forests, and otherwise return things to normal.

It's been a few years now since the 'new' colours began to come onto the market--I first saw the 'Meadowbrite' series at Canada Blooms the year I went (what year was that? Time marches on...2004, I think), and in the years since then we've seen a plethora of new cultivars revealed each year. I'm very interested in hearing what other gardeners around North America think of the rainbow of colours, their vigour and their durability. 
Here's a funny thing: despite absolutely loving the red-orange varieties, I regularly mix up the names of a few of them. But this one is 'Flame Thrower', I know because I took its photo while it was with a group of its siblings at Blomidon Nurseries
 I wasn't sure if I liked 'Hope' when it first came out. It was too much like the regular coneflowers, I thought. But I've really enjoyed its flat flowerheads and the soft pink flowers with their green-to-gold cones are quite appealing.
 Ask a dozen gardeners what they think about the double coneflowers, and you'll get a variety of answers, from strong love to strong dislike. I am rather fond of them myself, but I wonder how much, if any, use they are to birds and other creatures that normally go to the coneflowers for food sources. This double is called 'Raspberry Truffle', and I really like it, better than I do 'Pink Double Delight' and the 'Secret' series from Terra Nova Nurseries.
 Most of our local nurseries are carrying a number of coneflower varieties now, from the faithful standard purple and white forms to the various yellow, red, orange, and green cultivars.
 Here's something I've been puzzling over for a couple of weeks now. This is 'Green Envy', which used to be much more green in its petals than it is now, at least it seems that way to me. I wonder if some of these fancier varieties lose their colour vigour and will revert to their parentage. I still really love coneflowers regardless of their colour, but when one purchases something for a specific trait and the trait weakens or disappears, it's a bit disgruntling. Maybe it's the dry weather affecting them.
 I have a deep and abiding fondness for green flowers, from the marvelous 'Limelight' hydrangea to 'Hummingbird Lime' nicotiana to amaranthus cultivars. This coneflower is called 'Green Jewel', and it's a dandy, and seems to be pretty vigourous to boot. It and 'Jade' were both developed by the same breeder, plantsman Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands, and one of the proponents of the "New Perennial" movement, which uses bold drifts of perennials and grasses in a planting. Works for me.
 I have found the Big Sky series of coneflowers to be quite reliable here in my garden, although I seem to have misplaced this one, 'Harvest Moon'. I have a very bad habit of not making maps or labelling areas of the gardens properly, so I can't tell which coneflower is which til they flower. And maybe 'Harvest Moon' is one of the ones not yet flowering.
 Time for a couple of the double coneflowers now. 'Hot Papaya' remains my favourite, hands down. Every day the petals and the central cone change hues, and this plant commands attention in any garden.
Although it's attractive and colour-changing as well, I am not as enthused with 'Marmalade' double echinacea. I wouldn't toss it out of the garden, but if it fades away I doubt very much I would bother replacing it. Colour is a highly subjective thing, as we all know, and many people rave about the colours in this coneflower. It's all good, so long as they do well for you.

This is a new-to-me variety this year, 'Sombrero Sandy Yellow', and I am liking it a great deal too. Is there a lot of difference between this and Big Sky 'Sunrise'? I don't think so, but I could be wrong about that. Have any of you compared the two yellows for yourselves?
 'Tiki Torch' is a brilliant orange, and I like it a great deal. It's close to the school-bus orange/yellow of some of the rudbeckias, but it really glows in the garden and usually has a lot of bees around it.
As far as I can tell, 'Tomato Soup' is still the deepest red of the single-flowered cones. 'Hot Papaya' might be the deepest red overall, but again, we could have great discussions about what constitutes red, orange, rose, purple...these shades are all somewhat subjective and it can be really hard to accurately describe a colour (think of daylily descriptions as proof of that!) Whatever the case, I love 'Tomato Soup's deep colour, and hope you do too.

This is only some of the coneflowers available--which ones have you tried, and which ones have thrived for you? Which haven't lived up to their billing? Over to you, dear readers!


  1. I really like the 'Sombrero Sandy Yellow' planted next to the E. purpurea--very pleasant combination. I just have purpurea myself. Love it! You have quite an impressive collection of Echinaceas!

  2. A shame you've misplaced "Harvest Moon" as it's a beauty. As I'm rebuilding an old garden right now, I just have the standard purple coneflower. Althought I did purchase "irresistible" at an extremely good price last year. Poor thing didn't make it through our winter though.

  3. We share a common love, you and I. Echinaceas. I just bought a new one call Fireworks. You have a wonderful collection. We here in Colorado are in a drought. The heat has been miserable all summer even my echinaceas suffered. They can take the heat, but mine didn't get enough water. We hope the fall cools and brings some terribly needed moisture, don't we?

  4. I have tried several colors of coneflowers here in North Florida where I live. After a couple of years, the new hybrids tend to die out or revert to some shade of purple. I read that if you keep them deadhead they will not be as likely to revert. I am trying that this year with the Sombrero Hot Coral that I got.

  5. I have been collecting all the latest and greatest through last year...I am letting those I have grow in to see what performs...bad summer for them as they died back early and the birds have had a field day with the seeds...my Tomato Soup and Flame Thrower have been the best so far!

  6. Never knew that cone flowers came in so many colours. So lovely.

  7. I have been delightfully stunned to see the many new coneflowers - and they can take a lot of drought. Right now I am waiting for the arrival of three days (promised) rain, after having one inch all August.

  8. Hello Jodi! I've not been blogging as much as in the past and really enjoy visiting your blog today. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to cone flowers and adore the familiar, but some of your new varieties are drop-dead gorgeous. That brilliant red double takes my breath away! Time to reconsider my options! Loved "seeing" you again - I'll be back! XO

  9. My husband has been after me to plant cone flowers after he saw tiny birds landing on them to eat the seeds.

  10. Hi, Jodi! I'm Nadezda and glad I found your blog. I love Coneflowers too, you've a nice collection!

  11. What a beautiful selection you show here. A few years ago I wasn't so crazy about coneflowers but boy have I come around. I'm loving the big attention grabbing blooms right now. I just have a few basics presently. Purple flowers, Ruby Star and Magnus, which frankly, even side by side I can't tell the difference between the two. Pow wow white which is a tiny plant by comparison but I do love the white colour. I'm quite taken with your Hope, that might be next on my shopping list.

  12. I haven't seen much of a variety of coneflowers in my area. Maybe I'll have to venture further away from home next spring to find some. My ordinary purple coneflowers did very well during this very hot, dry summer.

  13. Hello My fellow Canadian
    I haven't heard if Sandy hit there or not....Im hoping that you came through without damage. I look forward to catching up and reading your blog more thoroughly now that my summer is also coming to a grinding halt. I am new to blogging. I just started in September. Im over at Mermaid-at-Frog-Hollow.blogspot.com


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