07 August 2013

Sundown Goes Down

Several years ago, new echinacea varieties were the rage. Every garden catalog seemed to tout their company's latest propagations. I didn't buy an iPhone or iPad when they were first introduced to the world, but I was sucked into buying two new echinacea.

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
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Poor performer not lasting past spring
  • No pests

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, all zinnias, phlox, marigolds, sunflowers, echinacea, nicotiana, buddleia, rudbeckia
  • Harvested: 2 peppers, 2 tomatoes, 8 cucumbers


Casa Mariposa said...
The more breeders mess with coneflowers, they weirder and wimpier they get. My Tiki Torch developed athracnose and ended up in the trash. I'll just stick with the tried and true 'Magnus' and 'White Swan'.
Janet QueenofSeaford said...
My Big Sky coneflowers didn't do well in Virginia either. I might take up Tammy's suggestion on White Swan...would like some white sprinkled in.
Swimray said...
Janet, Casa,
I also respect the Coconut Lime echinacea, a breed which although not tall, blooms all summer -- better than the purple native.
Patrick said...
With the rush to get new varieties on the market, some plant companies are not as discerning as they use to be. With the rush to cash in on the flux of new echinacea, I've heard similar accounts and been disappointed in the 'Green Envy''echinacea in my Mim's garden with the color compared to the catalog. But as she has a tendency to do, she disagree with me as evidenced by her defense of the coloring.
Les said...
Every one of the new coneflowers I have planted have gone belly-up, while the species proliferates. I once asked a grower what the deal was, and she says that all of the flowers should be cut off before they develop in the first year, which was not the best selling point I have heard.
Swimray said...
One reputable company gave a gardener her money back rather than ship something they learned was not up to their standards. My Coconut Lime echinacea has been stellar.
Swimray said...
I don't feel so bad now that an 'unapologetic plant geek' like you can't get them to grow.