Plant breeders often get stuck in a rut, copying each other, with only slight variances in each new selection. What makes us stand up and take notice is when a breeder dares to head in a completely different “Pythonian”-like direction. Such is the case with Echinacea ‘Pretty Parasols’, which is in flower now at JLBG. We love this oddity from Belgium’s Jan Spruyt, but am unsure if anyone else will share our excitement. The plant is taller (3′), and much more airy than the form typically seen in other echinacea hybrids. So, what do you think?
Just back from the Perennial Plant Association meeting in Lancaster, PA, held in person for the first time in three years. It was like a family reunion after such a long period of no contact, except via Zoom. Over 450 people from around the world showed up for the first year back.
The Perennial Plant Association is a professional organization for people involved in production, sales, trials, research, landscaping, or growing perennials. The annual meetings consist of a week of talks, tours, and a trade show. There are plenty of tour options, so attendees can select whether they are more interested in landscape design, retail, or production.
Aris Greenleaf is a large liner producer, who also has a trial garden. Sadly, non of the trial plants here had been planted more than a few months.
Cavano’s Nursery in nearby Maryland, was one of several top notch perennial growers we visited.
North Creek Nursery, a leading producer of native plant liners in PA, hosted the group for an amazing dinner
Owner Ed Snodgrass welcomed the group to his Emory Knoll Farms, an “off the grid” nursery that only produces plants for green roofs. 100% of their power is produced by solar panels on site.
For those unfamiliar with green roofs, shingles are replaced with plants, which help insulate the structure, while also reducing runoff.
What interested many on this tour, was their use of an outdoor version of a Stanley Steamer, for weed control. The manufacturer, Weedtechnics is out of Australia, but has a few US distributors.
Steam is applied too kill weeds as you would clean a carpet. The steam only penetrates the ground to 5 mm, but that’s enough to kill both the weed and weed seed, without bothering nearby plants. This is certainly a technology many of us on the tour will be investigating.
We visited the amazing Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, a place I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several times over the last 30 years. The gardens have undergrown a dramatic facelift that made a great garden even better. It was great to catch the native Zigadenus glaberrimus in full flower by the lower pond.
The amazing Chanticleer Gardens and Longwood Gardens both hosted the group for two incredible dinners and a chance to stroll the grounds. At Chanticleer, we caught the water lotus (Nelumbo) in full flower, looking eerily like something from the Little Shop of Horrors.
Of course, we are all there to see the latest and greatest in new plants, and these gatherings never fail to show us something new we need to try. Below are the latest from the world of echinacea breeding.
Lysimachia lanceolata ‘Burgundy Mist’ and Sorghastrum nutans ‘Golden Sunset’ are two new US natives that are just hitting the market.
Of course, in addition to the plants, these meetings are also about the people and the networking that these meetings afford. It was great to see two former JLBG’ers in attendance, Adrienne and Jon Roethling. Adrienne is now the Director of the Paul Ciener Garden in NC, and Jon heads up the grounds at Reynolda House and Gardens.
And it was great to catch up with Simple, the Roving Garden Artist…one of the most “out of the box” designers I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
It was a lovely surprise to run into an old friend, plantsman Barry Yinger, who was in town, taking a break from his Sanseveria conservation work in Tanzania to visit his sister, and happened to be staying next door to the convention.
It’s always great to catch up with old friends, Nanci Allen (long time PPA director), and Allan Armitage (retired UGA professor). You never know who you’ll run into at these meetings. If you work in the field, check out the PPA, and perhaps we’ll see you at a future symposium.
Just over a year ago, we built a new berm garden, adjacent to our Open House welcome tent. Here is that garden today. The soil is composed of 50% Permatill (slate gravel), 25% compost, and 25% native soil). This is in an unirrigated section of the garden. Like all garden spaces at JLBG, no commercial fertilizers are ever allowed. The exceptional drainage and high nutrient content from the compost and Permatill result in an amazing growth rate.
Our 2+ year old clumps of Echinacea ‘Kismet Raspberry’ are truly stunning in the gardens this summer. The second image shows how we’ve used these as a color echo in the garden with a crape myrtle in the distance. Many of the new echinaceas are light years better than the early colored hybrids, which tended to be week growers and short-lived. Echinacea ‘Kismet Raspberry’ has impressed us so much that it will be available in the new Plant Delights catalog that will come out in a couple of weeks.
Echinacea ‘Big Kahuna’ has turned into a wonderful beast in the garden. Here is our clump of this super vigorous selection this week as it enters its third year in the gardens at JLBG with no sign of slowing down. The fragrance is also amazing, as are the number of bees it attracts.
The butterflies are feasting on the echinaceas in the garden. I just caught this Eastern tiger swallowtail sitting still this week. You can bring amazing pollinators into your garden by planting lots of nectar-producing plants.
The echinaceas have been incredible in the garden this spring and summer. Here are a few shots from JLBG last week. First is Echinacea ‘Julia’…a very compact orange-flowered coneflower with sturdy stems.
Echinacea ‘Salsa Red’ is one of the most floriferous coneflowers we grow…truly amazing!
Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’…love this color and flower form!
One more fab favorite from the garden today...Echinacea ‘Julia’. This wonderful coneflower is very compact and shows and grows well in the garden.
The coneflowers are looking so good in the garden now, I wish you could all see them. Here’s Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’…great black-purple stems, a compact habit, and just an all around great plant.
One final favorite…the very floriferous, but more compact Echinacea ‘Salsa Red‘ in the gardens today!
Here’s another coneflower that’s been a star in our trials…the creamy yellow-flowering Echinacea ‘Aloha’. All of these I’ve shared have shown excellent vigor, good perennialization, and have sturdy stems.
After last years’ performance, Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ moved into our top tier of favorite coneflowers. Again, this year, it’s a star in the garden as you can see here!
The hybrid coneflowers are making such an amazing show in the garden now, we just had to share. Here is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’...part of a stunning 3′ tall, five year old clump. They key to growing echinaceas is to plant them in well-drained soil, and do so before September. It’s also very important to cut the flowers off before they bloom and until they get well established.