Sunday, July 10, 2011

Excogitating Echinacea

I noticed this morning that Sherry, of  If only sweat were irrigation also blogged on echinacea, but she had the good sense and grace to stay with those echinaceas whose appearance closely resembles the appearance of my native species

Echinacea 'Tomato Soup'
I've been exploring, with some unease I might note, various other recently-released echinacea cultivars in my garden, and I'm starting to view the results now.  I'm prone to like the oranges and reds, but I'm not very fond of the pinks and whites and greens.  I had previously tried all white 'White Swan' several times, but I hadn't been able to overwinter it yet and it really just looks too much like a Shasta Daisy to be worth the trouble to keep trying.  My favorite, so far, is the bright orange-red 'Tomato Soup' cultivar, which is right now happily enjoying the Kansas Sun with over 20 flowers on one clump.  I must have found the right place for that one and I am planning to add some other 'Tomato Soup' plants soon, because I really love that red-orange tone.

Echinacea 'Aloha'
I've also tried a couple of others recently, with the yellow-tan 'Aloha' making a decent first bloom in my garden.  I like this one, just the right color to offset the blue Russian sage next to it.  I have high hopes for 'Hot Summer', but that one is a new one for me this year and it hasn't bloomed yet. 

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya'
I am, of course, very picky about the echinacea cultivars I choose.  I really can't even bear to look at many of the new cultivars that have been introduced from nurseries far and wide.  Very double "poofy" echinacea such as 'Pink Double Delight' are no delight for me and remind me of a highly manicured French poodle.  The lime green 'Green Jewel' leaves an acid taste in my mouth.  Why breeed for a green flower on an already green plant? 'Marmalade', or 'Coconut Lime'? Or 'Meringue' or 'Coral Reef'? 'Fatal Attraction' would surely be the death of me!
  Please, no more of the off-line colors, my stomach can't stand it.   I WOULD like to find an easy source for 'Tiki Torch' as I believe I could use that orange in my garden, and I will admit to trying out 'Hot Papaya' last year (pictured at right), which is as far as I'll go in trying the new doubles.  Not sure yet whether I'm very excited about this one, but I'll let it live a year or two yet.   As far as purplish 'After Midnight' goes, we'll have to see.

For the rest of us, it's important to note that most of the new Echinacea have come from only four modern breeders.  In 1968, Ronald McGregor suggested that interspecies crosses were possible, but it was Jim Ault of the Chicago Botanic Garden who put that theory into practice in the late 1990's crossing Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea paradoxa, Echinacea angustifoloia and others.  Ault is responsible for most of the breakthrough colors.  Richard Saul of Saul Nursery in Georgia created the Big Sky series with Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea paradoxa crosses.  Dan Heims of Terra Nova is hard on their heels.   Arie Blom of the Dutch nursery AB-Cultivars is responsible for many of the anemone double-flowered forms, for those who like them (I'm not in that group).
As for the future, who can tell.  Right now I'm content to view the explosion of new garden varieties and either turn up my nose at them or bury my nose in a new, and often fragrant, bright blossom.


  1. Hey, Prof! Glad to see you are enjoying the newer echinaceas. I really enjoyed the Big Sky series a few years ago but an inundation of voles wiped out every plant. The only ones I grow now are Kim's Knee High and Pica Bella - not sure how those survived the general mayhem.

    I agree about the oranges and the reds - the pinks and whites do nothing for me.

  2. maxima is an uprade over purpurea but the same color. Have white swan, pow-wow?, prairie splendor. Purpurea still the stalwart however.


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