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Posts Tagged ‘Virgin’

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.

Firebird

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.

Virgin

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.

echinacea3

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.

echinacea5

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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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

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.

Virgin

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.

Meringue

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.

Sundown

Sunrise

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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