Cone flowers continue to thrill in the summer garden

The perennial also known as echinacea used to come only in purple or white; now, a rainbow of colors are available.

I know I mentioned last week that I always hesitate to spend too much ink on just one variety of plant, so it was my intention to discuss some summer chores for us to complete this month. However, I then became distracted by an article in the September edition of The English Garden magazine about the glories of the perennial echinacea, or as we Yanks prefer to call them, cone flowers. That got me to thinking about this wonderful late summer bloomer.

It had been a while since I did any research on echinaceas, and there are many new selections on the market now, and several that have gone by the wayside. A quick walk around our perennials tables revealed that we are have more than 24 cultivars available to buy. That’s probably way more than any of us need to be exposed to, but then again, it is always fun to have choices.

In the early days of echinacea breeding, there were many new introductions that proved to be less than reliable for Northwest gardeners. Cone flowers are native to the American prairie, mostly where there is a distinct summer and a cold winter with snow cover. Northwest winters are usually wet with no snow cover, and often an on-again-off-again affair, which can cause a plant to wake up prematurely or never really go dormant.

As a whole, all echinaceas love sun and good drainage. The yellows and oranges need the best drainage, while the pinks and purples are less fussy. None of them like to be crowded, and they all need to be deadheaded right up to the last blooms of summer, at which time you can let some flowers set seed for the birds.

Traditionally, cone flowers only came in purple or white, but with the hybridizing of a yellow variety, breeders started giving us reds, oranges, clear yellows, and a whole assortment of tropical colors — not to mention some pretty goofy-looking double varieties.

Here are three that caught my eye this week

“Mama Mia”: This has large red-orange flowers that change from red to orange to coral and then to pink as they mature. The plant grows two feet tall and will form a clump 30 inches across in a few short seasons.

“Prima Ginger”: This one really knocked my socks off. Like “Mama Mia,” “Prima” has multicolored blooms that start a soft orange and then age to a pink tone. It is short and stocky, growing only to 12 to 15 inches tall, which makes it a great candidate for a container. As a side note, there is also a “Prima Cinnamon” and a “Prima Ruby” in this series, but thankfully I haven’t seen them on the benches to tempt me!

Sombrero “Flamenco Orange”: The Sombrero series came out several years ago and all the colors in this group are sturdy and compact (but still reach 24 to 30 inches tall once established). “Flamenco” has big, bright orange-red petals surrounding the typical brown spiky center cone that all cone flowers are known for. This is a long bloomer and will form a good sized clump, but it’s also well suited for containers in the first season before it gets too big.

All cone flowers mix well with ornamental grasses, sedums, lavender, black-eyed Susan daisies and really, just about any summer blooming perennial that likes a hot, dry, location. Try some in your border this summer.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

Free class

Learn how to garden in challenging places at 10 a.m. July 27 at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, go to www.sunnysidenursery.net.

Talk to us

More in Life

Follow these step-by-step directions to plant all summer long and never lose one to the heat. (Getty Images)
Gardening pro shares 7 steps to successful summer planting

When a landscape contractor in the Sacramento Valley, he planted all summer long and never lost a plant.

sandwich with ham, tomatoes, lettuce and toast isolated on white background, healthy breakfast, lunch
You voted: The best darn sandwich in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

Evan Thompson / The Record
The Shifty Sailors performed at the Celebrate America event on July 3 at Freeland Park.
It’ll be concerts ahoy! on Whidbey Island this weekend

The Shifty Sailors and the Saratoga Orchestra will perform two pop-up concerts. They’ll do the TikTok sensation, “The Wellerman.”

"Betty Corning" clematis' lavender-blue petals dangle from long flower stems, which look like ballerina skirts floating in the air. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ aka viticella clematis

This clematis’ lavender-blue petals dangle from long flower stems, which look like ballerina skirts floating in the air.

This large, enameled copper plate is decorated with a stylized rooster, fish and three star-like designs. The back is textured enamel with the mark "Karamu OH Hykes." (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
Enameled bowl by talented Karamu artist should fetch thousands

The shallow bowl with a stylized picture of a rooster on the front was signed “Karamu OH Hykes” on the back.

This year's Quilts on the Beach is scheduled for July 31 at Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island. (Cama Beach Quilters)
Home and garden events and resources around Snohomish County

Home and garden events and resources around Snohomish County

The Pilchuck Boyz will release their new album "Leisure Village" on July 23.
Snohomish’s Pilchuck Boyz release new album of ‘mossy reggae’

With their silly, hooky tunes and willingness to make fools of themselves, the duo have been compared to the Flight of the Conchords.

At The Landing, prime rib is also sliced and served as sliders and a hearty English-cut sandwich. (Quil Ceda Creek Casino)
Taste of Tulalip: Prime rib with horseradish sauce and au jus

Now you can roast Quil Ceda Creek Casino’s classic prime rib at home. Pro tip: Turn it into sliders or sandwiches.

A double smash burger with cheese is messy to eat, but easy to make. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Eat This: Double-decker smash burgers with secret sauce

This recipe calls for stacking two burgers between three buns, so it’s messy to eat. Be sure to have a stack of napkins.

Most Read