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Monday, March 24, 2008

Crazy for Cone Flowers

There's something about cone flowers that make me think of joy and laughter. Maybe it's the way they caper about, never too stiff or somber. Perhaps it's the clear colors that beckon to me and cast their spell upon my gardening soul.

Between Echinacea (purple cone flowers) and Rudbeckia (black eye Susans) there are many cone flowers to chose from. While many varieties are hardy perennials here in my zone 6b garden, some are annuals too. I'm pretty sure this is Rudbeckia hirta in this photo, it's not a perennial here on Long Island.

Cone flowers tend to scatter their seedlings with vigor. I leave the dead heads on because I love the gold finch they attract to the garden. This photo shows the back of my thyme garden. It was the year I put corn in my planters and I loved that look so much!

In the back you can see a tall Rudbeckia laciniata. It's the one Rudbeckia I ruthlessly culled from the garden. In two seasons it almost engulfed this corner and three years later I still have to be vigilant for seedlings popping up in that area.

Unlike the rest of the cone flowers, Rubeckia maxima is quite slow growing. It also has quite different foliage, a glaucous colored leaf. After 6 years I will finally have a clump large enough to divide this spring. While the foliage on this one isn't too tall, the bloom stalks shoot way up there, looking me eye to eye, and sport the most fantastic cones.

In my experience here, not all cone flowers are easy to grow. The Echinacea 'White Swan' was quickly overtaken by seedlings (none of which were white). I've also tried three of the newer varieties of Echinacea in the new colors and not one has made it through a winter here.

But as long as I have my wonderful Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne' rising above my head and waves of Echinacea purpurea through out the gardens. I will laugh and sing with my joyful cone flowers.


Vanillalotus said...

Wonderful cone flowers. I have yet to try any but I'm sure I will be addicted. The Botanical Gardens here has many but mostly purple cone flower.

Cinj said...

Beautiful! These flowers always remind me of the long and lazy carefree days of summer.

Anonymous said...

Aww, that is such a gorgeous sight!

Tacoma florist

Amy said...

I'm starting some purple cone flower from seed this year and really, really hope they do well! I love the rudbeckia maxima (second blog I've seen it mentioned on in two days) and will have to see if it will grow where I live.

Pam/Digging said...

I love coneflowers too and have a lot of them in my garden. I've tried three or four of the new colors of echinaceas, but none was hardy enough to survive more than a couple seasons in my garden. So back to the old standbys for me.

jodi said...

Awesome...I'm extremely fond of coneflowers too, including Ratibida, Rudbeckia and of course every echinacea I can get my hands on..I really, REALLY want Rudbeckia maxima, since I saw it last summer at Kingsbrae Gardens and was immediately dazzled by it.

No Rain said...

Great photos. I love coneflowers!

Dave said...

Great pictures! I like the combination of the 'White swan' with the Russian sage. I've got some variety of Rudbeckia I collected last year coming up in a flat in the garage, I hope they turn out as beautiful as your did!

Melanie said...

vanillalotus, they should do well for you, they are so easy to grow.

cinj, you should try them too, the deer won't like the cones!

amy, if you see rudbeckia maxima near you, definitely try it. Remember, it's really slow growing.

pam, me too, I'm not buying any new varieties unless I see them in somebodies garden where they've been growing for a few years.

jodi, I have ratibida too and can't believe I never took a photo of it. This year I'm moving it to another spot. It's been very slow growing here and a bit floppy but oh so pretty and dainty. I'd love to see what other people combine it with.

aiyana, thanks, me too!

dave, that combo photo was taken at a local campus. I came home and immediately copied it here in my garden :-)

WiseAcre said...

I love the photo of the coneflower-latris-daisy mix. I'm going to copy and paste that into a garden somewhere. I might even try the 'Corn in a Tub".

Thanks for commenting about the Coreopsis zabreb. I couldn't have described better how easy to divide and how hardy it is.

(You put .net instead of .com on your link - want it corrected? I can't imagine it was intentional. I make the same goof with my e-mail at times - .com instead of .org)

Gail said...


hello. My favorite coneflower is the Tennessee has a lovely color and form. In the mid South were I garden summer would be boring if not for the coneflowers! I let Blackeyed Susans seed where ever they want and then edit as needed...same with coneflowers.

Here's to lots of laughter and singing in your garden this spring and summer.



redrahde said...


redrahde said...

This is my first year to order plants (other than daylilies) by mail and I went crazy. At least it felt that way to me. The plants arrived last Friday and I spent the entire day on Saturday weeding and planting 30 new plants. Ten of them were 3 varieties of the Sunrise echinacea. Plus a girlfriend gave me starts of her echinacea purpurea which I planted in front of some rose bushes. I ordered from a recommended nursery and all the plants arrived alive and in good shape, but they sure are tiny. You can barely see them in the ground. When you are used to only plainting containerized plants, these come as a bit of a shock. Hopefully, I can keep them alive until they can take hold. I bought 30 plants in all, but they haven't made even the tiniest dent in my flower bed. I guess you can tell that most perennials are a new thing for me.

One thing I am sure of is that you couldn't pay me enough to go into the business of shipping plants. The time, energy, and material that went into packaging these plants for shipment was amazing.

Melanie, you have been my inspiration to try new and different plants. I hope I can do you proud.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I've taken a compromise position with the Echinacea seed heads. I deadhead about half & leave the rest for the birds. Otherwise the garden is too quickly overrun with seedlings. I know it's a cliche, but I also have some Echinacea with Liatris. They just belong together.

jeff-nhn said...

Coneflowers are one of my favorite perennials. Plus they are so easy to grow and can withstand dry conditions once established. Every perennial bed needs a couple of varieties in my opinion.

Brenda Kula said...

Every year I tell myself I'm going to plant coneflowers, and I don't. This year I'm going to try harder. They are wonderful flowers and I know the wildlife love them as well.

María José said...

Delightful!!!! Cone flowers are ones of my favourite!!!

Frances, said...

Lovely photos of the best way to use the coneflowers, in a mixed border. A lot of money was spent on those fancy sky series last year, and it looks like they have returned, at least I think it was those, won't know for sure until they bloom. Sunrise did not come true from seed, we got a white flower instead of that pale yellow, but it's still pretty. Good topic.

garden girl said...

I love them all too! So far Goldsturm and Herbstsonne seem to like it here.

The echinaceas, not so much. Soon I'll know whether any of them came back this year. I've never had trouble growing them anywhere before, but they don't like it here. Nothing much seems to like it here!

Be careful what you ask for, I know, but I wish my garden would get overrun with seedlings. . . of anything!

Melanie said...

wiseacre, thanks for letting me know about my address, I can't see the ending of it in the short box here and always assumed it was correct. Glad you like that photo, I love it!

Gail, I saw the Tennessee cone flower for sale once and could kick myself I didn't buy it. Now I've got to keep my eyes open as I've heard of 3 new (to me) perennial nurseries here on Long Island.

Pauline, I'm glad your comments were able to make it through. Given a choice, I always try to buy potted perennials rather than mail order but this year I ordered some too. Sometimes it's the only way to get some plants that are harder to find. Thanks so much for your sweet comment about inspiration, I bet you'll be an amazing perennial goddess in no time!

Mr. McGreggors Daughter, that's a good idea with the seeds. I might have to give it a try too.

Jeff, it sure is nice not having to worry about water when it's become such an issue now.

Brenda, do you have friends who garden in your area? Cone flower seed so well that it's easy to find somebody to share pieces with you.

Maria Jose, I'm so glad you like them too!

Frances, it would be nice if you fancy cone flowers came back. I thought one of mine made it but when it bloomed it was the old fashioned pink one again. I must have let a seedling get in that area. Keep me updated if they bloom for you later.

Garden girl, if you lived nearby I'd share a piece of garden pie with you. Hmmm, maybe I need to write about garden pie on my blog...

Jean Ann said...

In your profile, you mention wanting a truck...and we were just given (loaned?) one to is purple...and it carries a LOT of gardening stuff :)

Anna said...

I finally got here to your plot but it's really late--like almost midnight--but what a joy to see such beautiful coneflowers. I had the double doppler one year--it didn't do a very good job of double doppling. I agree that some varieties are hard to grow and don't self seed like the parent. Looking through your gardens, I've never seen tall garden verbena or Brazillian Verbena. Have you tried it? It would fit right in. Maybe it seeds to much for you?? I love it and like its height. It's purple too and goes with our pinks so well.

Esther Montgomery said...


I don't usually like bright flowers these days.

I've gone boring.

I like leaves and white, with a few odd splashes of orange to prove I haven't gone colour blind!

However, I found the photo at the top of your post today especially heart-warming.

Perhaps because here (in Dorset) it's grey and cold and drizzling with rain - and we don't even get any snow (which would make cold weather worthwhile!).

Best wishes

Esther Montgomery

Anonymous said...

Those are gorgeous flowers!

Melanie - Do you have an email address where I can reach you? wondering if you would be interested in receiving some free product samples?