From the E-Newsletter:
New Colours in Coneflowers
Some of the hottest and most exciting
accomplishments in recent plant breeding have been made
in developing new coloured hybrids in the genus Echinacea.
Two groups of breeders have so far introduced these
new colours: the Chicago Botanic Garden with their Meadowbrite
series and the Saul Brothers of Atlanta, Georgia with
their Big Sky series. Both groups have bred these coneflowers
by hybridizing the same two species but with different
and interesting results.
two species in question are Echinacea purpurea,
the classic purple coneflower known and loved by gardeners
and common cold sufferers alike, and Echinacea paradoxa,
a rare yellow-flowered species. It is the crossing of
these two species that has given rise to new shades
of oranges, corals, yellows and pinks in this genus.
The first of this new generation of coneflowers
to arrive on the scene was 'Orange Meadowbrite' (above
left) with rich orange petals deepening to a lusty,
rusty orange around a fragrant cone. It was followed
shortly thereafter by the equally fragrant 'Mango Meadowbrite'
(above right) in warm yellow. These two cultivars are
interesting for their resemblance in form and structure
to species paradoxa -- kind of like a child looking
a lot like one its parents but not the other. The plants
are somewhat lanky, with smooth narrow leaves as well
as narrow, non-overlapping petals. While the colours
are bold, the look of the plants and flowers are refined,
delicate and with wildflower-like.
The Big Sky series, by contrast, has more of the look
and structure of the classic purple coneflower Echinacea
purpurea. The leaves and petals are broader, the
plants more strongly upright and the petals are more
overlapping. The Big Sky series looks just like a normal
purple coneflower only with new and exciting colours.
This series includes 'Sunrise' (at left) with lemon
yellow petals around a gold cone, 'Sunset' with salmon-orange
petals and a copper cone (below left), 'Sundown' with
coral petals tipped in salmon and broader petals than
'Sunset', 'Harvest Moon' with rich gold petals around
a golden-orange cone and 'Twighlight' with rose pink
petals around a red cone. All of the cultivars of the
Big Sky series are fragrant.
There are a few things about the requirements of coneflowers
that any gardener in the Lower Mainland wanting to grow
these wonderful plants should know. Coneflowers come
from the North American prairies. They are therefore
extremely hardy to our temperatures. But they are adapted
to dryish, well-drained soils that are average to poor
in nutrients. The challenge in the Lower Mainland is
to avoid rich beds that are excessively moist in the
winter. Plant your coneflowers in well-drained or preferable
dry soils in raised beds with average to low nutrients
and you should be quite successful.
Currently available at the nursery (and
in bud!): 'Mango Meadowbrite', Big Sky 'Sunrise', 'Sunset',
Ready in the next 1-4 weeks: 'Orange Meadowbrite',
Big Sky 'Harvest Moon' and 'Twighlight'
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