For searing colour that grows even hotter in the setting sun, you’ve gotta try Echinacea–yup, the plant that’s used for a variety of herbal remedies. It’s actually one of over 4000 herbs, used for medicinal purposes, that are grown either in the wild or cultivated in Canada. But I figure this dependable, easy-to-grow perennial earns its keep just fine by lighting up my tired mid-summer garden like a knee-high fireworks show.
Part of the daisy family, the plant also goes by the name of coneflower. It’s a North American native and attracts butterflies and bees. In the fall, American goldfinches love their seeds. They don’t mind poor, dry-ish soil but they are fussy about getting plenty of sun.
Echinacea come in a variety of colours from creamy white to purply rose and even lime green but it’s the molten oranges and iridescent hot red/pinks that steal the show. And then there are the bloom shapes. The daisy lookalikes have distinctive prickly cone centres. Doubles, like ‘Hot Papaya’ shown above, have a cushion of shorter petals fringed with a skirt of longer petals. And just to prove that flowers can have a sense of humour, you’ve got to check out Echinacea ‘Doppelgänger’ and Echinacea ‘Doubledecker’, daisy-like flowers with their own cute little Philip Treacy-style hats.
For a riot of colour and texture in a summer flower bed (and who wouldn’t want it any other way?), try a mix of Echinacea in all their glorious colours, heights (from 30 to 50 cm) and shapes.