The Garden Guy: Orange You Awesome coneflowers are absolutely dazzling
Orange You Awesome made its debut in 2019, and I can truthfully say, it is, indeed. This is one of the new color-coded groups of echinacea from Proven Winners and it has captured this gardener’s heart. The other selection is Yellow My Darling.
Orange You Awesome has performed like a champion all summer, and now, as we enter August, it is still performing magnificently. It reached almost 2 feet in height and produces flowers described as tangerine with a red halo around the cone. I am an orange color lover and this has fulfilled all my dreams in a coneflower. Orange You Awesome, has been a hit with pollinators, too. The best show was when the green metallic bees visited but the gray hairstreaks, and now, swallowtails also are finding it a tasty treat.
Yellow My Darling, is just as the name suggests, a rich yellow, also reaching about 2 feet tall and packed with flowers. I am growing it in front of Blue Boa Agastache or hummingbird mint. It, too, has brought in its fair share of pollinators; hopefully, it will be a non-stop bloomer through fall.
If you think that the echinacea is purple to hot pink, well it is, but something awesome has happened in the world of purple coneflowers, and that is science. It is wonderful, complicated science, when it comes to breeding. There were crosses, back-crosses, three-way crosses, and more.
The result is our native coneflower species has simply gotten better; we have more colors, flowers, and habits to incorporate in our gardens. Your designs will be more intriguing, colorful, and will bring in so many pollinators, it will appear it was specifically done at their behest. The color-coded series is one of the best.
Early spring is still my favorite time to plant purple coneflowers. Select healthy growing transplants not yet in flower. These are the ones that are still producing roots and green leaves. But to be honest, the industry has changed and offers healthy blooming, vibrant transplants all season.
Whenever you decide to plant, choose a site in full sun for best flower performance. The soil does not need to be luxuriantly fertile; on the other hand, if it takes a pickaxe or a jackhammer to break apart, plan on incorporating 3- to -4-inches of organic matter. While tilling, work in two pounds of a slow-release 12-6-6 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed space. Space your color-coded echinacea plants 10- to -20-inches apart in an informal drift or sweep. If you have the mucky soil, consider planting on raised beds using a prepared landscape mix.
Your partnership-planting opportunities with these new echinacea plants are unlimited. In addition to Blue Boa Agastache, I have mine partnered with catmint, blue salvias, and perennial hibiscus. You’ll love them in informal sweeps or drifts with rudbeckias or gloriosa daisies like Prairie Sun or Indian Summer. They also look natural in prairie-like companions with ornamental grasses swaying in the breeze.
Purple coneflowers still come in purple and they will always be recommended. Keep your eyes open, however, for the new Orange You Awesome and Yellow My Darling plants. They bring both beauty and fun to the garden.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)