05 July 2010

Da Lime In De Coconut

In the past decade, a bunch of new unique echinacea varieties popped up every year. I searched the internet, but never found a definitive answer to the question, "Why now?" They are perennial, easy to grow requiring little care, look great, a North American native with few pests or disease, and attract butterflies and birds. Echinacea are suddenly cool.
"Among ornamentals, Echinacea purpurea has consistently been among the top 10 herbaceous perennials grown and sold in the United States in recent years. This species is native to prairies and open woods in the central and southern United States and is cold hardy to USDA Zone 3. The sturdy flowers have petals in pink to purple shades with a prominent, spiky center cone. Echinacea purpurea are tough, drought-tolerant plants that can thrive in a variety of habitats. They are deer-resistant."
They were used as medicine by native Americans for infection, colds, sore throat, and stomach ailments. Maybe new interest in natural and herbal cures has lead to a new interest in the coneflower, too, as it appears to have an immume-enhancing ability, particularly with throat, urinary, lymph, and certain skin afflictions.

For home gardeners, breeders have introduced new cultivars with different color, petals, and cone shape. According to a university evaluation, some of these were found to be lacking in flower production and longevity. The native appears to be more consistent and long-lived.

I was intrigued by many of these newbies, attracted by the color and shape of an easily grown, cut flower. I purchased two to plant last fall: Coconut Lime and Big Sky Sundown. I could not resist the white-green color combo of Coconut Lime, and its puff ball shape was really interesting. This spring, it started blooming earlier than expected, and was shorter than the native, being about 15-inches tall (40 cm), (or was that because of its first year?)

My Coconut Lime is very happy nestled between the cleome and expanding cannas. Flowers start out with a flat central area of tiny compact petals and flat orange cone. As the bloom matures, the central area continues to bloom and puff up into a small pom-pom sphere. It becomes more green in color while the orange gradually disappears. The flowers last for about 3-4 weeks like the native. Time will tell if they bloom throughout the season (as they appear to be doing now) or poop out in mid-summer.

They are a swallowtail butterfly and bumblebee magnet, and goldfinches love to feast on the seed heads in early morning, balancing on top of the stalks.

For The Record:
  • Medium well-drained soil
  • Full sun, average water
  • Organic fertilizer in the spring
  • No major pests or diseases

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, cosmos, phlox, mexican zinnia, nicotiana, rose,
    coneflowers, salvia, late daylily, cleome, hostas, calendula
  • Harvested 3 cucumbers


lostlandscape (James) said...
I'm boring. The echinaceas I have are the basic pink color, basically a six-pack of whatever the nursery had that I broke up in several locations around the garden. Coconut Lime looks really intriguing after all my years of pink vanilla.
Swimray said...
Hold on. We will see in the next few years if the new variety holds up as good as the native 'boring' type.