I consider the purple coneflower a gold standard for its toughness and its ability to grow. My clump has been divided numerous times. Coconut Lime was the first new variety that I reviewed [posted 2012.07.05]. All I can say is that I got my money's worth: reliable, interesting, pest resistant, and pretty much everblooming though the summer (better than the native purple coneflower.) Its new bred sibling is, however, is another story.
The second new echinacea was a salmon-orange number named Sundown and one of the five 'Big Sky' varieties. It came out roaring during its first spring, and then flamed out. The entire plant just gave up in the heat of summer. The second year was better, coming on strong again in the spring, only to just as strongly poop out by summer. It did stay alive and above ground. Last year, I noticed fewer blooms, but its leaves again stayed around until disappearing in the fall. They curled, turning a nice lovely brown before doing so. Flowers are listed as fragrant? Ha, right - in another world.
Not many blooms appeared this year, and most had inconsistent petal arrangement. I deadheaded, hoping for a repeat bloom. Leaves are turing a rust copper color today, maybe like a sundown on Mars. Always 30-inches high (75 cm), Sundown has never grown beyond its original size. These photos were taken in a previous year and this spring. Notice the lower leaves on the lower picture.
The location in a new bed with still-improving soil can be partly to blame for the performance and research indicates it needs more regular watering than the native. Further reading on garden forums paints a different picture than the catalogs. With their high expectations for the Big Sky series after reading the hype, other gardeners leave a trail of comments such as very disappointing, mutant, grew next to Chernobyl (my favorite), dud, Big Sky Coneflowers Suck, inferior, deformed, and stunted.
My advice: if you see Sundown for sale, run away.
For The Record:
Moderate heavy clay soil with ongoing amendments
Small amount of fertilizer
Poor performer not lasting past spring
Blooming: cosmos, all zinnias, phlox, marigolds, sunflowers, echinacea, nicotiana, buddleia, rudbeckia
Harvested: 2 peppers, 2 tomatoes, 8 cucumbers