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3 Ways to Save Water When Getting Ready For Spring

Coneflowers Rock the Garden!

By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Hey campers. Spring is there…yeah, right around the corner and it is time to plan a place for one of the showiest, longest blooming, pollinator-magnetic plants. Yes, we are talking coneflowers. Much has been done to improve the lot of this genus and the wizards at Terra Nova are leading the pack with varieties that thrive in “normal” garden conditions. Longevity issues have been vastly improved over the last decade by introducing new species into the genetic mix.

On the bright side, a plethora of new flower colors, shapes and heights have been bred, allowing echinacea to be used more often in containers. Adapted to prairie conditions, these plants are used to drought, wet feet and most any kind of soil. They are planted with abandon in public parks like Millennium Park in Chicago as well as a number of other Piet Oudolf-designed gardens like the High Line in New York City. Honeybees love the pollen and nectar from the oversized flowers. Bumblebees are drawn to the masses of flowers and are often seen napping in the blooms.

Gardeners are also drawn to these varieties due to their easy culture and the value these perennials provide, increasing every year with denser crowns and flower-power. These often fragrant plants are quite hardy in the Midwest and will even tolerate Minnesota cold. Let us have a peek!

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Echinacea SUPREME™ 'Cantaloupe'

Absolutely the color of a ripe cantaloupe! Young flowers look like a brown-eyed, double gerbera and are excellent as a cut flower. As the flowers expand, they take on a more “echinacea-like” look and last and last and last. There is no other echinacea with this color on the market. Ohio State University 2012 trials comment was “Beautiful flowers: a visitor favorite.” One of the three nominated perennials for the 2013 Medal of Excellence Reader’s Choice Award of Greenhouse Grower magazine. You can expect a height of 30” tall in flower with a width of 15”. Strongest bloom starts in July and continues through October. Happiest in full sun, it will reward users from USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 9 with flowers from May to October. Beautiful en-masse or in the mixed border.

Learn more: Echinacea SUPREME™ 'Cantaloupe'

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Echinacea ‘Leilani’

‘Leilani’ glows with its clear yellow flowers that bloom from summer to fall. The name ‘Leilani’ is well suited to this elegant plant as it means “royal child of heaven.” It has a strongly upright habit that does not require any staking. It is one of Terra Nova’s tallest offerings, reaching up to 40” in height. It is natural as a large exclamation point or a choice for the back border. Mature plants in the garden attained a width of 30”. This plant can also produce fantastic cut flowers, winning accolades all over for its beauty and long bloom time. Full flowering starts in July and will continue until October. Terra Nova’s gardens have even received frost in November and ‘Leilani’ was still pushing bloom. As with most prairie plants, this coneflower is hardy in zones 4-9. As with all coneflowers, ‘Leilani’ prefers full sun.

Learn more: Echinacea 'Leilani'

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Echinacea 'Merlot'

Huge 5″ wide, rose-pink flowers centered with orange cones sit atop stunning, well branched, burgundy-black stems. These are strong enough to break scissors! Like a fine wine, this beauty has great fragrance. Thirty-five flowers graced our second-year plant. This echinacea was given the Dallas Arboretum’s seal of approval in the “Perennials for Purgatory” trials. Quite hardy in zones 4-9. Bloom time runs from July till frost. Plant proportions are 30” for width, 30” for height, and 34” in height while in bloom. The dark stems pair beautifully with dark foliage plants like Heuchera or shrubs like Physocarpus ‘Diabolo.’

Learn more: Echinacea 'Merlot'

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Echinacea 'Ruby Giant' 

This is the first echinacea bred for multi-branched, strong flower stems which boast huge 5-6” wide fragrant blooms. This clonal selection from the original 'Rubinstern' seed material has a double row of petals held horizontally for maximal impact. 'Ruby Giant' has become the industry standard for garden worthy echinacea breeding. Blooms all summer into fall. Like the rest of the coneflowers, it is hardy in zones 4-9. Height in flower is 32” with a width of 32”. Expect to see the blooms appear from July till frost. 

Learn more: Echinacea 'Ruby Giant' 

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Echinacea 'Tomato Soup'

Warm, tomato-red flowers to 6″ wide stunned our nursery visitors! A real treat which grows to 32″ tall and as wide. Flowers will cover this selection 'til frost! This was one of Terra Nova’s first echinacea introductions and has received “Classic” status, still in demand by many for what can be the largest blooms on an echinacea. Plants are well-branched and show excellent vigor. This is a full-blooded Echinacea purpurea which provides great comeback qualities. Like the rest of the coneflowers, it is hardy in zones 4-9. Height in flower is 32” with a width of 32”. Expect to see the blooms from July till frost.

Learn more: Echinacea 'Tomato Soup'

Dan Heims is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world. He was recently honored by The American Horticultural Society with the Luther Burbank Breeding Award, as well as the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit. He was honored by receiving the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding.

You may contact Dan at [email protected].

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photos courtesy of Suntory Flowers

As summer heats up, the garden party is just beginning for gorgeous, tropical mandevillas. To learn more click here for an interesting article.

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