Each May a great transformation takes place in our borders and meadow garden when the purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) start to bloom. The beds turn rosy pink and buzz and flutter with bees and butterflies. And I wear myself out taking pictures and picking bouquets and bragging about my great purple coneflowers. (I'm always trying to get people to come over and see them.)
I've spent a fortune on native perennials. I've tried nearly every kind you can buy. But none is as reliable, in my experience, as the good old purple coneflower, which is drought tolerant, long-blooming, and self-seeding. This plant never lets me down.
Purple coneflower is adaptable, growing in sun to part shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil but can also grow in poor, sandy soil and red clay. I don't water my plants . . . or fertilize them or spray them with any sort of chemical. I don't do anything except fish for compliments about them: "So I don't know if you noticed my purple coneflowers . . ."
In North Florida, purple coneflowers grow anywhere from 2 to 5 feet tall. Even before they bloom, I find them quite attractive--straight and sturdy, with plenty of big, dark green, lance-shaped leaves. This year they started blooming in early May and are still going strong now in mid-June. The flowers, which consist of pink rays arranged around a coppery central cone, aren't at all delicate or fragile and make good cut flowers as well as nice roomy landing pads for pollinators.
I don't deadhead my plants. Like I said, I mostly just leave them alone. Gradually, the cones turn black and are visited in winter by hungry goldfinches looking for seeds. The black cones don't look all that pretty, I'll admit, but the goldfinches make up for it. They're quite decorative perched on a stem on a cold winter day, with their canary-yellow bodies and zebra-striped wings.
|My cute nephew, Jake, in flowerland|
|These fellows are a little shabby for some reason.|
|My sister Kris and Jake|
|Sophie among the coneflowers|