Echinacea – The Purple Coneflower

Echinacea Pixie Meadowbrite by fdr2164
Echinacea Pixie Meadowbrite by fdr2164

Every year one of the best plant conferences on the East Coast is the Perennial Plant Conference held in the fall at Swarthmore College. This conference is co-sponsored by Chanticleer Garden, Longwood Gardens, The Hardy Plant Society/Mid Atlantic Group, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College.  (If you haven’t visited Chanticleer, Longwood Gardens and The Scott Arboretum, you should. Each garden is fantastic in its own right.)

This year on October 16th a group of friends and this Garden Lady joined what looked like a sell out crowd for this 2009’s excellent, informative conference. I hope to be writing about what some of the excellent speakers had to say in future posts.

Right now I want to talk about one of my favorite features at the conference and that is what is called the Promising Plant Forum. Five people who are either from top nurseries or who work at top gardens give a 7 minute presentation of 3 of their favorite choices for best new plant or underused excellent plant for your garden.

It was interesting that of the 15 plants recommended, 4 were Echinacea plants. Echinacea which are commonly called purple coneflowers are native to eastern and central North America, where they are found growing in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. Echinacea are generally long lived plants that have large, showy flower heads and are in bloom from early to late summer.

Native plants are what is really being stressed these days for the garden. The reason is that people in the know want to encourage biodiversity – which means that they want plants that encourage the native butterflies, birds, bees and beneficial insects to come to your garden. Not every plant attracts as many butterflies, birds, bees and beneficial insects as others.

Echinacea is one type of native plants that attracts good things and have been bred to have super stunning flowers that are easy to care for and bloom for a long period during the summer.

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) by W9NED
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) by W9NED

Vic Platt from the Mt. Cuba Center (another wonderful garden to visit- this has native plants) recommended Echinacea Purpurea ‘Pica Bella’ and ‘Elton Knight’ and Echinacea ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’. The wholesale company Green Leaf Plants recommended Echinacea Sombara ‘Hot Pink’ a new 12 inch tall dwarf plant that is great for a summer/fall show. If you are interested in buying this Echinacea, contact Green Leaf Plants and ask them where it is being sold retail.

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