A Tale of Four Coneflowers

Just as I was becoming overwhelmed by all the Echinacea cultivars out there, the color, form or generosity of bloom on a few varieties reaches out to grab me. Last year I fell in love with a double in the form of 'Southern Belle'. I marvelled at the perfectly packed petals of varying shades of pink, giving the flower center the formality of an old-fashioned mum but with its outer rays lending a casual air to the overall look of the flower.

But 'Southern Belle' fell out of favor with me for its stem flop, and seeming inability to support its many stems. After all, I reasoned, there must be others with better stem strength and perhaps a more compact character.

'Butterfly Kisses'
And then along came 'Butterfly Kisses', bred by Arie Blom of Holland. So far, it's incredibly compact, nicely floriferous, and cute as can be. Its color is a pure pale lavender pink with a row of shortened petals elbowing their way toward a row of near white petals that surround the deep golden cone at the center.

'Butterfly Kisses'

For sheer flower power along with fragrance and the added drama of near-black stems, 'Solar Flare', bred by Itsaul Plants, gets my vote. Perky petals that start out reaching for the sky relax into a flat stance surrounding a deep rust-red cone. It smells like a rose, and the flowers age gracefully, good for any living thing.

But "the Supremes" might give the doubles another aspect I'm lacking so far. A Terra Nova Nurseries introduction, the Supreme series includes three cultivars bred for compact habit, superior branching, saturated color and fragrance.

'Solar Flare
'Solar Flare'

'Supreme Flamingo'
I'm glad I planted Echinacea 'Supreme Flamingo' near 'Solar Flare'. Both have a modicum of orange in their color--not enough to make them coral, but enough to make you want to keep them away from true pink.

It's not like fingernails on a blackboard bothersome, but I'll be moving the pink phlox away from the grouping, perhaps replacing it with another shade of phlox or perhaps something else entirely. So many choices...

'Supreme Flamingo'

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