Over the past decade, I've sat on the sidelines and watched dozens and dozens of new coneflower (Echinacea sp.) colors and forms introduced annually. It's exciting to see the variability but daunting to consider all the subtle differences. It is near impossible to keep up and of course, the "eye candy" photos we see in the catalogs are all enticing. I've visited the Echinacea trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden (managed by Richard Hawke) many times and he's admitted the difficulty in keeping up with so many introductions each year. It's exciting to see the results of so much breeding which creates many options for the home gardener. Do I feel the market is saturated by coneflower varieties? Absolutely. However, I've always been attracted to the double forms which I've included in this blog. Their impact with color and form is amazing but of course, selections with strong stems are vital. Nobody likes floppy coneflowers. That is my complaint with many of the new varieties in that stem strength hasn't been considered with the same focus as flower color. In visiting various coneflower trials, I see beautiful varieties that are floppy and splayed open. The average gardener doesn't want to deal with staking so stem strength (thereby wind resistance) is important to me (and most customers). So, back to me on the sidelines. At RBG, while we have some trials, we don't have the space to put 200+ varieties of Echinacea side by side for a trial. However, I've been observing, taking notes and photographing many selections as I visit other gardens. The focus of this blog is obviously the double forms which really are quite eye-catching. I can remember when there were only a couple varieties like 'Razzmatazz' (near the bottom of the blog) and 'Pink Double Delight' (seen directly below). Look at the developments over recent years! I think the appreciation of the double forms is subjective with some gardeners preferring the standard, "flat daisy" flower form. I think these "impactful doubles" can play a role in the full sun garden but again, stem strength, flower color longevity (minimum fading), hardiness and durability are all considerations as I continue to observe fun new varieties like 'Supreme Cantaloupe' seen above. Enjoy these images understanding this is just a small sample of what is available from the local garden centers. Coneflowers have not peaked yet so you wont run out any time soon of options!
I bounced between many projects today including seed ordering (primarily for the Spring Plant Sale), plant records, catalog scouring, presentation preparation, etc. I'm glad to have the ability to work on so many diverse projects but already feel spread thin despite spring feeling like a long way in the distance (5 degrees or so today...but sunny!). Dr. Gredler came in for painting while Pat continued working on processing lights from the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). Larry worked on many projects, most involving the HLS. We also saw Mark S., Bill O., Urban, Rose and some others today. Maury ran some timely errands for us as well. Back it tomorrow and then off traveling for four presentations in two days at the end of the week.
'Pink Double Delight'
'Double Scoop Bubblegum'
'Double Scoop Raspberry'
'Butterfly Kisses' (compact)
'Comet Meteor Pink'
'Double Scoop Orangeberry'
'Double Decker' (an interesting look)