Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Beauty Of Cone Flower, Otherwise Known As Echinacea

Summer Time Adventure In My Own Backyard

This is the time of year I love, getting outside more, shaking off the winter doldrums.  There is nothing I enjoy more than to be out in my yard.  Sometimes just sitting and analyzing the open areas, trying to figure out what to plant next to fill in the gaps.  It is a great way to clear the cobwebs of my life, releasing day to day events from my brain.  On very busy days it is my private, soothing mini retreat so it needs to reflect my personality and bring me solace.

This picture of my yard is when it was in its' first tidy back then and I can't believe how little everything was.  Now it is a monster on steroids needing to be tamed.

Sometimes I have so many plants self sowing, I have to make the decision to cull them from my yard or be inundated with a plant that smothers the rest of them, becoming the predominant color strain.  Right now, yellow seems to be the color of the day and I am not that fond of it.  Tick Seed, Stella d'Oro Daylilies and Blanket flower are in full splendor, yet out of control.  Once my red Dianthus and Weigelas burn out, yellow is all I see.

Okay, I admit it, sometimes you can catch me talking to my plants, you know how it is, I have to at least let them know they are about to hit the compost pile.

Summer Time Discovery

After opening up some free space in my garden, I head off to my favorite nursery where they have some of the neatest varieties of perennials.  In fact they always seem to get in the latest discovery of a plant that holds a patent no less.  I had no idea you could patent a plant.

Of course I take my tour of the nursery to check out the Hosta plants since you never have too many of those.... right?.... and as always they had some real stunners.  Can I get a big "holla" up in here for HOSTA heaven?

I found another unique beauty for my open space under my River Birch Tree.  After grabbing up another Hosta (known as 'orange marmalade') to add to my growing collection, I headed over to the flowering perennials.  I wanted to infuse more pink and red into my overgrown yellow flowered yard.

And this is where I found my latest discovery of some new and interesting colors on an old favorite!

Love / Hate Relationship with This Plant

At my last home I had a yard full of Cone Flower Echinacea, and at the time the only color you could get this plant in was purple.  And of course it also is an aggressive self sower so can you imagine my last yard? ...yep that's right, purple sea of flowers everywhere....swore I'd never own another Cone Flower Echinacea plant again.

Well it seems this old favorite in the past 10 years, known for it's healing properties at cold and flu prevention by building up the immune system, has been genetically modified to produce some incredible colors.  I was literally awe struck and mesmerized by the multitude of shades.  So, of course, I had to add this remarkably transformed plant to my collection of perennials since they would bring an array of different colors to my yard, self sowing or not.  I didn't care.  I just had to have these in my garden.

My Selection

I chose two types with subtle shade variances on the pinkish to coral tones.  They also come from a collection called Cone-Fections by Arie Blom, a Coneflower hybridizer in Holland. They were released for retail introduction in 2012.  I must say they are all simply Gorgeous!

Raspberry Truffle ~ This Coneflower has giant fragrant 3 - 4 inch blooms that begin life as peachy-pink daisies and then grow a pom-pon of deeper raspberry!  And it completely took my breath away when I saw it.

The best part is, this plant offers continued color interest due to its' rich mahogany stems which stand out beautifully against the dark green foliage.  'Raspberry Truffle' will reach about 28 to 32 inches high in bloom, and plants will form clumps 24 to 36 inches wide, with good branching and a neat, tidy habit.  The stems also have just a tad of bendy twist in them and don't stand quite as erect as the typical Coneflower.

'Raspberry Truffle' is considered a double-flowered Echinacea variety.  It has a dollop of chocolate-brown at the center of the bloom of the many shades of carmine, rose, and pink below it.  And like all Coneflowers, it's very vigorous, standing up against heat, humidity, drought, poor soil, deer, and any other thing you can throw at it.  It lives in Zones 4-9.

Bummer Factor: As a patented hybrid, it will unfortunately not self sow true.  In fact it is considered a sterile flower.  Plant needs to be divided to spread this lovely gem throughout the yard.

Guava Ice ~ This Coneflower is not as well known, yet it is just as beautiful and I could stare at it all day.  It has the most unusual color I have seen and my jaw dropped when I first laid eyes on it.  The blooms are absolutely huge, and I do mean HUGE.  Again another double flower variety and the blooms are highly fragrant.  The flower spans at least 4 inches across. 

For this gigantic, robust bloom, the plant needs to be strong and vigorous.  No problem there since 'Guava Ice' possesses deep green foliage on thick, erect lime green stems.  Nothing spectacular about the foliage or stems in color, but the interest holds for the truly gigantic blooms that sit atop them.  This flower in my opinion is unrivaled in the Echinacea world and maybe in all of perennial land.  The flowers fade from deep coral pink to a cooling shade of guava, hence the name "Guava Ice". 

'Guava Ice' grows to about 28 to 32 inches high in bloom, and plants will form clumps 24 to 36 wide.  Grows in Zones 4-9.

Bummer Factor: As a patented hybrid, it also will unfortunately not self sow true.  In fact it is considered a sterile flower.  Plant needs to be divided to spread this lovely gem throughout the yard.

Plant Care:  They love full sun, can tolerate drought once established and will attract finches and butterflies into the yard.  Since these plants are considered sterile, trying to let the blooms mature to seed is futile, unless you simply want to feed the finches.  But if you want longer bloom time, then deadhead the flower once it has turned into the cone and petals have swooped downward.

Personally, since I can't benefit from the self sowing, I'll opt for deadheading to enjoy longer bloom times and continue to put finch food in my feeder.  And when they are ready, I'll divide the plants for other locations in my yard.  

Now when you go hunting for these garden jewels and I know some of you will, stay cool this holiday and pamper these gems with plenty of water until they establish their root system. 

PS  I don't think you'll locate these at your local home improvement store.  Seems to be a specialty plant only available at certain nurseries and they are selling out fast.

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