Posts Tagged ‘echinacea’





Hot Papaya

Hot Papaya

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Looking back at posts from earlier years, I see that I usually do an entry about coneflowers every summer. This year, the summer has zipped past and we are sliding into autumn. I just have time to get my annual echinacea post looked after.

After daylilies, coneflowers may be my favorite garden flowers, though it would be hard to choose. I enjoy both the traditional varieties and newer hybrids that come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Pictured above are my oldest plants, the reliable Magnus on the right, and slightly shorter Ruby Star on the left. They combine nicely with daylilies, grasses and other perennials for a natural look.


Ruby Star

I took this photo of Ruby Star one morning after a night of rain caused the heads of Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Sky’, switchgrass or panic grass, to droop over the flowers like a sparkling veil. Once the sun dried the grass, it lifted its head from the flowers.

Secret romance

Secret Romance and Red Admiral

My favorite thing about coneflowers is the way they attract butterflies. I have found that all varieties, even the puffy new hybrids appeal to an assortment of butterflies. Pictured above is a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) visiting Secret Romance.


Here’s a bank of coneflowers performing in the garden. Echinaceas bloom over a number of weeks. This grouping features Secret Romance on the left, Milkshake, and Now Cheesier. The traditional coneflower at the back of the grouping is Prima Donna. I tried Now Cheesier in three locations in the garden before finally hitting on a spot that allowed it to thrive. Gardening is like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location!

Secret Romance

Secret Romance



Now Cheesier

Now Cheesier

This entrance to a garden path is quite heavily shaded. It receives a few hours of direct sun from about mid afternoon, so is not ideal for coneflowers. However, a couple of my favorites do well here, the bright red mophead Hot Papaya and the amazingly green Green Jewel.


Hot Papaya

Hot Papaya

Green Jewel

Green Jewel

Green Jewel

Green Jewel

One of the first double coneflowers to hit the market was Doubledecker, which produces a funny cap of stray petals at the top of its cone. It’s not very reliable at producing even these few stray petals. Oh how things have changed since those early days!



Here’s the orangey coneflower, Marmalade.



I try to add a new variety or two to the garden each year. This year, I planted Supreme Cantaloupe in the spring. This photo illustrates the way the flowers start out flat and gradually change colour and form as they mature. Meteor Yellow is also new. These two plants have yet to survive a trial by winter.

Supreme Cantaloupe

Supreme Cantaloupe

meteor yellow

Yellow Meteor

I’ll close with two traditional varieties that do well for me, the white Alba and the tidy 2-foot tall Prairie Splendor.



Prairie Splendor

Prairie Splendor

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Daylilies are like eye candy for humans, but they’re not a big draw for pollinators, in spite of the impression this skipper resting on Broken Heart might give. For bugs, I have other plants. A favorite of both me and the insects is coneflower, or echinacea.


Echinacea mixes well with daylilies and other perennials and is a big draw for butterflies. Two nice varieties for mixing with other plants are Ruby Star and Magnus. They’ve both been reliable bloomers in my garden. In the photo above, that’s Ruby Star near the centre, and Magnus on the far left.


Here’s another shot of Ruby Star mingling with daylilies. The yellow flowers are Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’. Ruby Star stands about 40 inches tall.

Magnus is very similar, perhaps a few inches shorter, and has reddish stems. Here’s Magnus blooming with the plumes of Giant Fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) and a phlox variety in the background. The thistle-like flowers are Echinops bannaticus ‘Star Frost’. To the right is the switchgrass Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’.


For a shorter coneflower, Prairie Splendor is an excellent choice. This clump, being watched over by Charlie Bird (Jake the Rake?) stands about 24 inches tall.


Close to Prairie Splendor is a double echinacea, Pink Double Delight. It’s been in the garden for a few years and has done well. Like its neighbour, it is about two feet tall. Here is a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) enjoying the flowers.


I’ve had fun growing some of the new echinacea hybrids that have arrived on the market in the last few years. They feature some unusual non-traditional colours and many have pompom or mophead flowers. One of my favorites is Hot Papaya, which I’ve had for a few years.


New this summer was the orange Marmalade. I added it to the Red and Gold border.


Many ‘green’ flowers have only a slight hint of green. However, Green Jewel is quite emphatically green. I love the complexity of the pattern in the flower head.


This little white coneflower is Meringue. It’s a compact plant, about 18 inches tall.


Meringue was a favorite white until I met Milkshake. Milkshake is about twice as tall as Meringue, reaching 3 feet. I find that, from a distance, the yellow centres of the flowers give them the appearance of egg whites with the yolk in the middle! This flower has a White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis) butterfly visiting it.


Milkshake provides a backdrop for the pink flowers of Secret Romance, another favorite.


I’ll close with this picture of a rather battered Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on Prairie Splendor.


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Echinacea Double Delight

I recently came across an article in a gardening magazine in which the author rails against the unsightly new echinacea hybrids. These poofy clowns would never find their way into her garden! Give her a good, old fashioned coneflower that the pollinators will recognize as a real flower. I’m not such a purist, myself. I have very much enjoyed adding some of the new hybrid echinaceas to the bed. Pictured above is one of them, Pink Double Delight.

Echinacea Magnus

That’s not to say that I spurn traditional coneflowers, not at all. They have a starring role in the midsummer garden. While many of the new echinaceas are smaller plants, standing about 2 feet tall, Magnus holds its flowers high, reaching about four feet.

Echinacea Ruby Star

And here is Ruby Star. It’s just a little shorter than Magnus, and its flowers have a slightly more intense colouring.

Echinacea Primadonna

Primadonna is blooming in a partly shaded section of the garden. The muted flowers are set off beautifully by Geranium ‘Rozanne’.

Echinacea Sundown

Sundown is an unusual shade that I find really is suggestive of a sunset.

Echinacea Alba and Sunset

Here’s Echinacea Alba, with Sundown in the background.

Echinacea Virgin

Virgin is another nice white coneflower. It has large, unusually flat flower heads, with the petals held out stiffly rather than drooping in the traditional coneflower manner.

Echinacea Hot Papaya

I still have space for some exotic doubles. Hot Papaya bloomed heavily last year, and put on an amazing show. It is just starting to bloom this year. It’s not quite so profuse this year, owing, no doubt, to the drought.

Echinacea Meringue

Meringue is situated in an area that has morning shade, where the greenish tint to the flower cones is well-displayed.

Echinacea Secret Passion

Finally, here are a couple of plants that were new to the garden last fall and are just putting out their first show of flowers. I’m really enjoying Secret Passion, above, and Milkshake, below, which are both set off nicely by lime green hosta leaves.

Echinacea Milkshake

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Ruby Star

Most of my butterfly photographs have featured Ruby Star echinacea. I have five or six plants that have matured beautifully since they were planted two summers ago. The purple-pink flowers make a colourful and reliable background to a planting of daylilies and are set off by the steel blue of of a switchgrass variety, Prairie Sky (Panicum virgatum “Prairie Sky”). Ruby Star has done very well in my garden. It has strong, tall stems, about 40 inches in height, plenty of brightly coloured flowers, and butterflies adore it.

Tangerine Dream

An amazing array of new varieties of echinacea have been arriving on the market and showing up in local nurseries in the past few years. They come in a range of heights and a rainbow of colours not usually associated with old-fashioned coneflowers. Last summer, I purchased a sampling of different varieties to give them a test drive. Were they hardy in our zone? Did they produce well? The answer, one year later, is that they nearly all survived the winter and are now thriving. One of my favorites is Tangerine Dream, above. Its brilliant orange really stands out in the garden and it has produced a good show of flowers. Unfortunately, its stems, about 24 to 28 inches long, are a bit weak and tend to sprawl rather than standing nicely upright. Still, I’ve enjoyed its unusual colour.


By contrast, Firebird has formed a tidy, upright clump with attractive brilliant red flowers. It is a shorter plant, about 18 inches tall and a group of Firebird plants would look beautiful edging a garden or growing around a birdbath. Here are Tangerine Dream and Firebird flowers mingling.

Tangerine Dream and Firebird

Prairie Splender is also an attractive clump-former, with a nice show of more traditionally coloured flowers standing about 24 inches tall.

Prairie Splendor

The longer stems of Virgin, about 30 inches tall, form a bit looser a clump, but still stand nicely upright. The white flowers are quite flat, with the petals drooping less than those of an older white, Alba.


Finally, here are a couple of pink doubles. First is Pink Double Delight, which features a brilliant pink pompom surrounded by a ray of petals.


This plant has been wonderfully bountiful, with a big display of puffy double flowers. Unfortunately, the weight of those big double flowers is too much for the stems, which tend to flop over on the ground. I had to round them up into a support to keep the stems upright. I’ll try to get the support in place a bit earlier next season.


Another great double is Pink Poodle, which has a hat-on-hat look.

Pink Poodle

Unlike Pink Double Delight, it has remained upright and is quite aptly named.


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Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) and echinacea

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Echinacea purpurea

Coneflowers, or echinaceas, have a lot going for them. They are generally tidy, problem-free, upright plants, native to North America, and they are very attractive to butterflies and pollinators. Pictured above is a typical garden-variety echinacea purpurea, an action shot, with a bee about to land on the cone that gives the flowers their common name.

A few years ago, a new wave of echinacea hybrids began making their way into nurseries. This spring, I found fancy coneflowers in quite a few of the garden centres that I browsed though. Many of these new hybrids are still selling at premium prices, but I picked up some of the less extravagently-priced varieties to try out. Now that we’re into mid-July, most of them are putting out a few blooms, so here is a review of the new plants.


Primadonna, above, has pretty, lavendar-pink petals (actually bracts). The flowerheads are reported to average 5 to 6 inches across with long stems standing above sturdy, full plants. Primadonna has been a bit slow to fill out here. I think the location I have it in may not get as much sun as the plants would like. The weather has been a real test for flowers this year, with high temperatures and humidity alternating with heavy downpours of rain. The petals of the first Primadonna blooms have really drooped, perhaps in response to the heavy rain.

Ruby Star

I planted three small Ruby Stars last autumn and they came up well this spring. The flowers are being enjoyed by bees, above, and butterflies. Below, a Ruby Star flower sports a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta rubria). The flowerheads of Ruby Star are a bit smaller, but otherwise similar to those of Primadonna.

Ruby Star with Red Admiral

I have read that Double Decker typically exhibits single blooms in its first year, while in the second year, a second set of petals create a feathery ‘hat” on top of the cone. The Double Decker I have seems to have settled in well, and has indeed produced single blooms. I’ll keep my fingers crossed in hopes that next year it will live up to its name.

Double Decker

Pink Poodle, like Double Decker, is supposed to produce double blooms. It has been trying a bit harder than Double Decker and there are a few odd petals on some of the flowers. Hopefully, it will put out a full array next year.

Pink Poodle

For a first-year plant, it has bloomed quite well.

Pink Poodles

Echinacea purpurea “Alba” is a standard white coneflower.

Echinacea purpurea "Alba"

Virgin is a newer variety. The white seems a bit brighter, clearer, and the flowerhead is flatter, with less recurving of the petals.


I’ve been quite pleased with Meringue, which features cool double greenish-white flowers. It is noticable shorter than all the other echinaceas. While they range between two and three feet tall, Meringue is only about 12 inches.


The “Big Sky” series of hybrids offers a number of varieties. I have Sunrise and Sundown. Both have been rather slow to settle in, especially Sundown, which has so far only produced a few small flowers. Sunrise is doing a bit better, and is starting to fill out a bit. The winter may test this pair. When they are fresh, Sundown’s blooms feature an interesting blend of a reddish shades flushed with purple. Sunrise is a very pretty pale yellow.



Tomato Soup is proving to be quite an eye-catcher. It has produced a number of blooms and is bee-approved.

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soups with bee

For most interesting colour, the award has to go to Green Jewel. I have been fascinated by how green these flowers really are! I guess some might say “Yes, but why would you want a green flower?” Still, it has intrigued me, and is blooming well. Like Meringue it is a shorter echinacea, just over a foot tall.

Green Jewel

Green Jewels

My overall award for most unusual new echinacea has to go to Hot Papaya. I’ve read that you either love this one, or hate it. I’m with the lovers. I look forward to seeing how each of these garden additions makes it through the winter and fills out next year.

Hot Papaya

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