PURPLE CONEFLOWER USED TO BE a major element of the garden here in its early days, but now the Echinacea that I have my eye on—as in through the camera lens this morning—is not purple at all, but orange. Hello, ‘Hot Summer’ (above) both literally and figuratively, since this solstice week has included a heatwave and the first coneflower blooms.
‘Hot Summer’ (a 2010 release, but new to my garden this spring from Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm) is one of an impressive selection of recent Echinacea hybrids that seem to be getting better and better, almost insisting that I wake up to coneflowers again and make some room. It was discovered in the nursery of Marco van Noort, a Dutch breeder, in 2007.
The most exciting thing about ‘Hot Summer’ (Zone 4-9; 30-36 inches tall) is that yesterday the flower in the top photo was another fiery shade altogether. Each 4 1/2-inch flower opens yellow-orange and passes through an aging process to deep red, so once you have a lot of flowers you can have the whole fiery spectrum on the plant at once (can’t wait, but you can see it here).
Is that spectral possibility a little too hot for your taste? ‘Tangerine Dream’ (above) is looking good to me, too—and is shorter in stature (just over 2 feet), with flowers about 4 inches wide. (Note: This is one of the plant’s first few flowers, so it’s probably not fully developed to form yet.)
Coneflowers are easy and adaptable, asking most of all for good drainage in full sun but will take part shade. They don’t ask much in the way of fertility or other coddling. And though the birds and butterflies don’t appreciate it, they’re good for cutting. When the first of these new-colored hybrids came out, I wasn’t impressed with their vigor, but these newer-generation plants look more vigorous to me so far, and are said to have strong branching habits, so fingers crossed.
Could it be that coneflowers become a major element here again? The birds would be happy, especially voracious fall-into-winter seed-eaters like the goldfinches. Though the first part of the coneflower genus name, echinos, comes from the Greek for hedgehog, those prickly looking centers will become miniature feeders for my feathered, not spiny, friends.