New coneflowers

Judith Adam

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'After Midnight' coneflowers. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.
'After Midnight' coneflowers. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.
‘After Midnight’ coneflowers. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.

For the past few seasons, I’ve railed about the demise of traditional coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) forms. Of course, they aren’t really gone, it’s just that the newer cultivars are being bred with other Echinacea species to produce modified flower parts that are (to my view) rather strange. I know I can be really boring about this, but I just don’t want to see coneflowers with fat fluffy tops, looking like Polish crested hens.

Getting straight to the point, have you seen Echinacea purpurea ‘Doubledecker’, E. ‘Hot Papaya’, E. purpurea ‘Meringue’, or E. purpurea ‘Raspberry Truffle’? If not, then it would be worth your while to easily search for Internet pictures of these plants, and you’ll see what I mean. The spiky central disc has been modified to produce petaloids (a petal-like form) or full petals to make a flower that looks a lot like a feather duster. This is a shame, as the large central disc with reflexed petals of traditional coneflowers is a beautiful structure, and produces nectar favoured by pollinators of all kinds. The bees will be befuddled by these bizarre new structures.

But I’m pleased to see some new coneflower colours appearing with petals surrounding intact spiky discs. Last week I bought three new cultivars—raspberry-pink E. purpurea PowWow Wild Berry (Zone 4), custard yellow E. ‘Sunrise’ in the Big Sky Series (Zone 5) and lime-green E. purpurea ‘Green Jewel’ (Zone 4). These robust plants are really exciting, and there are more vivid colours to come. Now I’m searching for E. ‘After Midnight’ (Zone 5), also in the Big Sky Series, which has deep magenta flowers with dark discs. They have overlapping, fragrant petals and blue-green foliage; plants grow to only 12 inches (30 cm). ‘After Midnight’ is a dramatic flower, but it still looks like a coneflower.

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