There's so much that changes in the MG landscape throughout the year...we thought a plant trial and garden blog was the best way to start sharing "what's new" and "what's happening with all those new varieties" with you! Visit often for updates on how trial plants are performing in the gardens and to see photos throughout the season as we grow and change!

Welcome to the Midwest Groundcovers Landscape Blog

Welcome to the Midwest Groundcovers Landscape Blog
Astilbe 'Vision in Red' with Hosta 'Patriot' and Carex 'Ice Dance'

Monday, February 16, 2009

Echinacea 2009

Hello again,
Last week I asked the question, "How many Echinacea do we really need?" While I understand the theory that there can be too much of a good thing, I also think that if you know how to use Echinacea, then why not? The key to the success of the Echinacea is not buying into every single one that comes out. Yes, there are dogs in the field, but there are some truly exceptional plants available in colors not seen before. Here, Midwest Groundcovers does believe in trialing these plants before they hit the market. This way we can weed out the ones that don't do as well and promote the ones that do. Below are four that we will have available in 2009 and one who will have to wait until at least 2010.
A little side note; we at Midwest Groundcovers have come to the understanding that when people ask, "What's new?", they really mean, what have you found that will work for us.

Echinacea are most successful when living with friends. When Roy Diblik talked about this group two weeks ago, he mentioned the fact that the plant is very upright and should be treated so. Mix them with Perovskia, Agastache, or Sporobolus. Here they can mingle with friends. If one or two dies, you may never notice. With a little help from their friends, a plant can disappear and a Perovskia or Sporobolus can fill in that spot. It's a great way to garden! Mistakes are much less visible. So I'll spare you from further ramblings, and talk about the specific plants.

Echinacea Big SkyTM Summer SkyTM
This is a very interesting coneflower if I do say so myself. It's a mix of orange and pink in the same flower. While, I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is the first "bi-colored" Echinacea on the market, I will say that it has exceeded my expectations. The 'Orange Meadowbrite' is the first bicolor in my opinion. Anyways, back to this plant. We picked this up because we were in need of a nice orange coneflower. While it may not be as orange as Orange Meadowbrite, it does have an orange feeling. Having some pink to the flower makes it much easier to put into a design. While we'll still be on the lookout for more orange coneflowers, this one has taken it's spot in our tradelist for 2009! And its' color is very distinguishable from other Echinacea.

Echinacea 'Pica Bella'
I made a mistake two years ago by telling Beth Botts at the Chicago Tribune that this was the best of the Echinacea in our trials. It was the truth, but we hadn't decided whether or not we should sell it yet. The picture you see to the left, made the front cover of the gardening section and basically sealed the fate of this plant. We had no choice but to grow it now. Out of all the Echinacea we've trialed, and it's been a heck of a lot, this one has performed better than any other. The blooms stay vibrant far past any other variety currently on the market.(More on that later) It's a shorter variety growing only 18"-24". The petals curve upwards and the stems are darker in color. Have I mentioned the foliage stayed very clean? All in all, a great plant. In our gardens, we've mixed it with Schizachyrium Blue Heaven. I could see it working well with other Little Blue Stems as well. If there were one plant I could recommend to you for the sunny garden to add color for most the year, it would be 'Pica Bella'. So much for saving the best for last eh?
Echinacea 'Pink Double Delight'
When you think of revolutionary plants like Heuchera 'Amber Waves', we can remember that it was a great idea, but Heuchera 'Caramel' is a better performer in our parts. Same could be said about 'Pink Double Delight'. When 'Razzmatazz' first came out, it was all the rage. Mail Order catalogs were getting ridiculous amounts for 3" pots. But a couple years later, a more refined double Echinacea hit the market. Staying much shorter and therefore less leggy, 'Pink Double Delight' is a welcome addition to the landscape. Mixed with the single coneflowers, it makes a nice contrast.

Echinacea 'Coconut Lime'
And they couldn't just stop at pink. Now there is this white, along with a host of other similar whites, as well as a red called 'Hot Papaya' and a orange one called 'Coral Reef'. I haven't tried the red and orange, but the 'Coconut Lime' was very nice. I actually like it in the landscape a little more than the 'Pink Double Delight'. Mixed with Achillea 'Moonshine' or 'Walther Funcke', and you can really bring out the yellow centers of 'Coconut Lime'. Add some spikes of Salvia 'May Night' or Salvia 'Wesuwe' and you have a great combination for the garden.

Un-named Echinacea from Chicagoland Grows
This plant was one of the most talked about plants on my tours last year. It was blooming from the beginning of June until frost. Who can beat that? Its' long bloom time offered up the possibility of asking a lot of people what they thought the name should be. I've been able to send the best names on to the Chicagoland Grows committee to see if they feel any of them are worthy! Other than it's long bloom time, it also is very short. It grew to only 18" tall. Furthermore, the dark stems were to die for! This should really be a winner in the market. Oh yeah, the rabbits left it alone. Woohoo! Nearby, other Echinacea went flowerless. I will admit to having a sort of smorgasbord for the rabbits here. There are a lot of other treats for them to feast on, so it doesn't make this completely rabbit resistant because it was here, but the fact that another one close by was without flowers, it should say something.
So you can see, there are a lot of new variations to Echinacea. 10 years ago, people would have laughed at the idea of an orange echinacea. Now, there are double ones, single ones, and some with spiked hair. There are orange ones, and white ones, and some Dr. Seuss wouldn't dare. There are yellow ones, red ones, and big poofy poodles. There are petals that go straight out and petals like wet noodles. There are short ones and tall ones and ones in between. What's next for the Echinacea breeders to dream?
Which ones will stand the test of time like 'Magnus'? I guess we'll have to wait and see. Until next time, have a great day!

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