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Epic Gardener
Table of Contents
Issue 11
Summer 2005


Running Hot and Cold

Recent Developments
in Echinacea Breeding

The Monochromatic Colour Trend

No-Loss Planting

Epic Plants 2005,
Part 2

Hardy Cyclamen


Recent Developments in Echinacea Breeding

We’re Going CONE CRAZY™
By Susan Martin

Prized for their large, brightly coloured, daisy-like flowers, Purple Coneflowers have rightly earned the nickname ‘King of the Daisies’. They are a mainstay in today’s landscape, as their eye-catching blooms fascinate gardeners across the country. In addition, they provide winter-long architectural interest with their rounded cones on stiffly upright stems. Seed-eating birds such as sparrows and finches delight in them all winter long at a time when food for them

Echinacea Purpurea

is otherwise scarce.

Culture: Echinacea purpurea is a wildflower native to the eastern United States and is well adapted to survive the hot, windy conditions typical of that region. Their long taproot stores water, giving them the ability to withstand periods of drought once they are established. Light, loamy soil is best, but they can adapt to any well-drained soil. Coneflowers like it sunny and hot. Best performance will be attained in full sun, though light shade is tolerated. Deadheading spent flowers significantly prolongs their bloom time.

Echinacea BIG SKY 'Sunrise’ PPAF

This season, we are thrilled to introduce two new awesome Coneflowers from Itsaul Nurseries in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past 10 years, Richard Saul has specialized in hybridizing Echinacea. As a result of this hard work and dedication, the company is ready to introduce a brand new series called Big Sky™. These hybrids are the result of crosses between E. purpurea and E. paradoxa. They have inherited the dominant characteristics of E. purpurea, displaying fuller, toothed leaves and wider flower petals. The blossoms have slightly re-flexed petals and a sweet rose-like fragrance.
Plants are well branched and are vigorous growers.

Perhaps best of all, these new Coneflowers are not purple!

‘Sunrise’ PPAF is refreshing citron-yellow, the same colour as Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’. The central cone starts out green, then widens and turns gold as it ages.

‘Sunset’ PPAF is electrifying orange with a prominent, brownish central cone. Its petals overlap slightly, giving the blossoms a full, substantial presence.

Echinacea BIG SKY 'Sunset’ PPAF


We haven’t seen this much excitement with Echinacea in years and these new selections are already proving to be some of the hottest new perennials this year. Keep an eye out for more exciting introductions coming soon from Itsaul Nurseries.

Meadowbrite™ Series – Echinacea Orange and Mango Meadowbrite™ (Reprinted with permission)

Orange and mango coloured coneflowers? That's right! The Chicago Botanical Gardens is opening up a whole new palette of Echinacea colors with their recent breeding advancements. They are developing new and improved varieties of coneflower, a native plant prized for its beauty, hardiness,
and long bloom time.

Susan has harbored a love for plants since being a young child. She has a BS in education from Eastern Michigan University, has owned and operated her own landscape design company, and is currently pursuing her passion for plants and writing as a Marketing Assistant for Walters Gardens Inc., a wholesale perennial company in Zeeland, Michigan.

A member of the aster family, this deservedly popular genus is very well known, especially in its purple form, Echinacea purpurea. Naturally occurring hybrids have been reported, as well as the ability to artificially cross the species. However, very few inter-specific hybrids have been developed intentionally.

In the past several years, the Chicago Botanical Garden has successfully made a number of inter-specific hybrid crosses from E. angustifolius, E. laevigata, E. paradoxa, E. purpurea, and E. tennesseensis. Several three-species hybrids bloomed for the first time in 2000, some with novel flower colors such as yellow, orange and red. These hybrids also exhibited several spontaneous traits, including a proliferation of the ray flowers, tubular fused rays (like those of a dahlia), and the combination of both horizontal and upright rays. Researchers at the Chicago Botanical Garden are currently observing these plants for their ornamental value and continuing their crossbreeding efforts.

Six years ago, Jim Ault, Ph.D., the Garden's Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Director of Ornamental Plant Research, began crossbreeding Echinacea species. Starting with E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, E. tennesseensis, and E. paradoxa, he created

Echinacea ‘Art's Pride’

 hybrids and then crossed these hybrids. In total, he made 96 crosses between the species. Perhaps his most exciting discovery was the vibrant gold-orange colors that appeared in hybrids of E. paradoxa x E. purpurea.

Echinacea ‘CBG Cone 3’

Ironically, the orange coneflower actually owes its existence to a long-overlooked 1968 taxonomic monograph about all the Echinacea species. In fact, it is what gave Dr. Ault the idea for breeding the plant. 'It was surprising that this information had been readily available for 30 years!' he said. And within a few years, Dr. Ault's new orange coneflower may be widely available too.

'Gardeners always want something new, and the current interest in native plants makes this coneflower even more desirable' he noted.

Creating new plants that gardeners covet is just the beginning, however. Many people don't realize all of the work that goes into introducing a new plant. The extensive process of propagation and evaluation actually takes many, many years.

In order to produce sufficient quantities of a plant that all share a consistent appearance, the tissue culture method of propagation is used. Two to three years of evaluation takes place at the Chicago Botanical Garden and at nurseries nationwide. After this time, if the coneflower makes the grade for disease and pest resistance, cold hardiness, and sturdiness of habit, it may be propagated in sufficient quantities to be sold.

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