Echinaceas or what we commonly call cone flowers have been around forever and have been used as a staple in perennial borders where there is full sun and good drainage. They bloom for a long time, attract bees and butterflies, make an excellent cut flower and provide seeds for birds in the fall and winter. They are sturdy and rarely need staking and seem to be pretty much insect and disease free. Other than a tendency to rot in the winter if they stay too wet there is really nothing I can think of to say against these reliable perennials other than the narrow range of colors they have traditionally come in. That is no longer the case!
Up until 5-6 years ago the purple cone flower was the traditional color of choice and there was also a white one that was nice too. All that has changed now with the breeding that has taken place and a trip to the garden center quickly reveals that there are many options in both color, flower form (double or single) and growing height (compact to tall meaning 12 inches to 3 feet).
Here are some of the varieties we currently have in stock:
SOMBRERO SERIES—these are very nice compact growers that form a sturdy clump only 12 inches tall. Salsa Red, Flamenco Orange and Hot Coral are three flavors currently on the benches.
PIXIE MEADOWBRITE—as the name suggests this is also a compact grower 18-20 inches tall with vibrant pink flowers.
PINK DOUBLE DELIGHT—as the name implies this is a double form with attractive pink petals and a cute little pom-pom on top.
CONE-FECTION SERIES—like Double Delight these are also double. Marmalade and Coconut-lime are two we stock.
DOUBLE SCOOP—more doubles in raspberry and cranberry colors growing up to 30 inches tall
SUPREME CATALOUPE—yet another double in an incredible ripe cantaloupe color reaching only 24 inches tall.
CHEYENNE SPIRIT—this variety sports a range of colors from purple through red, pink, orange, yellow and even white seemingly all on the same plant! Flowers are a traditional single form and plants are sturdy and reliable.
RUBY STAR—a more traditional form with purplish-pink flowers a full 3 inches across and the standard brown cone in the center this one looks like what we might think of as a native cone flower only better.
So you can see from the above selections that today’s gardeners have many choices of colors (many of which are in the currently popular tropical shades) and also growing heights. In my most humble opinion no perennial border should be without a few coneflowers. Take a little time to amend your soils to improve drainage and fertility before you plant and your new purchases will establish a whole lot faster. Remember to pre-irrigate the planting hole before you set the plant into the ground this time of year.
NEXT WEEK — It is once again time for my monthly to do list which if you are like most northwest families you will have to fit it in between your vacation! In the meantime keep watering and be thankful you don’t live in California where they are having the worst drought on record.