Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Coneflowerstorm



This amazing video is by Marco van Noort, Dutch nurseryman and plant breeder, whose website can be found here (if you can't cope with Dutch the option to translate it into English is in the top right corner of the page, though the content is not quite the same). Thanks to Marco for allowing me to post it here.

The developments in Echinacea over the past ten years or so have been astonishing, including the emergence of doubles in E. purpurea, the first of the coloured hybrids, and now the combinations of characters seen here.  Despite the example seen in Marco's video, of fine clumps thriving in the open ground, it is unfortunate that one very seldom sees established thriving clumps of any of the hybrids in gardens, despite huge numbers being sold annually. It seems that they are very easy for nurserymen to grow in pots but that they then fail to establish properly in the ground, and do not reappear next spring. I have heard suggestions that this is because nursery stock is grown in peat-based composts, or that the plants are not vigorous enough and exhaust themselves with their first few flowers. Matt Bishop at the Garden House in Devon, reports that he has had some success by planting plugs and cutting off the flowers until the plant has become properly established - this seems a very sensible course of action. It is possible, however, that continued selection of second or later generation hybrids will yield selections that have more of the desirable longevity of E. purpurea and less of the short-lived E. paradoxa in their constitution - one certainly hopes so.

We urgently need a full trial of new Echinacea selections - it's not very long ago that the RHS trialled E. purpurea at Wisley, and very dull they seem in retrospect - not only for their colours or floral shapes, but for growability and perenniality under a range of different conditions, and with research into the best methods to produce what will be a long-lived reliable plant for the gardener. Seed mixtures of Echinacea hybrids are now available from seed companies, and I'm inclined to try these next year to see if home-grown seedlings establish better than pot-grown specimens, and also to try to recreate the vibrant mass of colour captured in Marco's video.

1 comment:

  1. Two points:
    Here in the Pacific NW of the US the hybrid cone flowers do better and live longer in drier, hot gravel gardens. It seems they can't tolerate any wetness or compost around the base of the plants. They rot off. I believe that the more southerly, heat loving, drought tolerant species genes should make us reassess the conditions they really want. Our NW winters are just too wet (tho not today with 2.7 inches of snow and temps dropping into the low teens F tonight!)

    While the new colors and some petal shapes in the video are very lovely and a needed addition to the garden palette, my personal opinion is that the doubles are awful. Why on earth take a plant called a cone flower and breed out the cone? They are now as uncharming as double day lilies, snap-less snapdragons and any number of unique plants recently excised of their unique charm.

    How about breeding for taller cones, more and longer or narrower downward petals in any color possible? Longer blooming periods. Then we'd have some lovely and distinctive plants. Not just ANOTHER blobby, mum-ified flower for breeders to foist on the gardening world.

    Jim

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