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Coneflower

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                        June 13, 2006

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Shopping Smart For Your Garden
[www.bhg.com]

* Do a little research. Spend time reading garden magazines 
and then take note of favorite plants, tools, and tips in a 
garden journal or folder. You'll be more likely to buy 
plants that thrive and garden supplies that are truly useful 
and needed. 

* Shop during off hours. A beautiful spring Saturday morning 
when the garden center is swamped is not a good time to ask 
garden staff questions or shop in a leisurely, thoughtful 
way. Friday afternoon, when fresh shipments of new plants 
are often just in and the crowds are smaller, is a better 
time. 

* Stop in often. Good garden centers have a variety of 
merchandise and plants that they are always rotating in and 
out. You'll learn more about early spring gardening, for 
example, if you visit the garden center in early spring and 
see what's blooming and what's in. You'll learn more about 
fall gardening if you visit during the fall. 

* Talk, talk, talk. Ask garden center staff questions -- 
they'll do their best to help. And be as specific as 
possible. Bringing in pictures or drawings of your garden is 
very helpful in communicating what you need. 

* Read, read, read. The label, that is. The basics are all 
on the plant label or on the package, but it's amazing how 
many people don't really spend a moment studying them before 
they make the purchase. 

* Save the receipt. Many plants have a one-year guarantee 
but a receipt is usually needed. Tuck it into that garden 
journal or folder. 
 
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Coneflower
by Holly Shimizu

Echinacea's prickly cone sits crownlike surrounded by purple 
petals. Few plants have created more of a sensation among 
gardeners and herbalists in recent years than coneflower 
(Echinacea). Numerous studies, primarily from Germany, 
suggest that use of this herb does indeed bolster immune 
systems. Health claims aside, gardeners wax eloquent over 
the plant's vigor and hardiness, and its long, midsummer-
into-fall bloom season. Birds and butterflies also seek out 
the flowers. 

The plant's botanical name comes from the Greek echinos, 
meaning "hedgehog," a reference to its sharp, pointed flower 
bracts. "Coneflower" is a reference to the flowers' raised 
or conical centers.

All nine species of coneflowers are native to North America, 
but only the four listed here are available commercially. 
All are widely adaptable, so they will likely thrive in your 
garden. Except where noted, all are cold hardy to -35°F 
(USDA Hardiness Zone 3). By the same token, coneflowers 
thrive in southern and mild regions, through zone 9 in both 
the East and West.

Choose One or More Kinds

Petals of 'White Swan' don't droop like typical conflowers. 
Black Sampson coneflower (E. angustifolia), also called 
narrow-leaved purple coneflower. Native to the Great Plains
from the United States-Canada border west to Montana and 
Wyoming and south to Texas, this species grows only 10 to 24 
inches tall (other species reach 2 to 4 feet). The light 
purple to rose pink flowers are 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. 
Its leaves are narrow, and the stems are hairy.

Continued...

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Propagate by seeds sown in fall in a moist, sandy soil mix. 
Allow to overwinter in a cold frame. According to Neil 
Diboll of Prairie Nursery, this "moist stratification" 
procedure yields a significantly higher germination rate 
(about 90 percent) than seeding in a cold frame in early 
spring. If you cannot sow seeds in the fall, provide an 
artificial moist stratification: Mix seed in a 3-to-1 ratio 
with damp (not dripping wet) peat moss. Place the mixture 
in an airtight and watertight bag or jar marked with the 
date and plant name, and place it in the refrigerator at 
34° to 38°F for 30 to 60 days.

Root division is possible. However, this species has a 
taproot, and unless the lower half of the root has buds, the 
process is less reliable for propagation compared with E. 
purpurea. 

Researchers consider the roots of this species to have the 
best medicinal properties of all the coneflowers. But the 
plant's virtue may be its downfall: Collection of wild 
plants has increased to a degree that threatens their 
survival.

Pale Purple Coneflower (E. pallida). This species is found 
in sunny, well-drained sites from Illinois to Iowa and east-
ern Kansas and south to Georgia and Louisiana. Its 3- to 6-
inch-diameter flowers are notable for their reflexed 
(drooping) petals. Bloom begins in midsummer and lasts until 
frost. Plants grow 3 to 3-1/2 feet tall. As with black 
Sampson coneflower, propagation by root division is rarely 
successful, so propagate this species by seed after moist 
stratification.

Purple Coneflower (E. purpurea). This is the most familiar 
and widely distributed of all coneflowers, and the one that 
most gardeners plant. Given rich, amended soil, plants reach 
a robust 3 to 4 feet in height and produce flowers 4 to 6 
inches across. The reddish purple petals are shaded green at 
the tips, and the center is orange. In most varieties, the 
petals droop after growing outward from the cone, accounting 
for the name given to the plants in the Ozarks: droops. The 
2- to 3-inch-long leaves are medium green, and toothed or 
smooth, dep on the variety. With their strong stems, they 
make an excellent addition to cut-flower arrangements. This 
coneflower, native to the open woods and prairies of Ohio 
and Iowa south to Louisiana and Georgia, makes a showy 
backdrop for low-growing summer annuals or perennials.

Continued...

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Unlike most of the other species, purple coneflower has a 
more fibrous root system, the reason it is more successfully 
propagated by division. If grown from seed, E. purpurea 
often blooms the first year.

Varieties of E. purpurea include: 'Alba'-creamy white 
flowers with coppery tones; 'Bright Star' -- red to rose 
flowers, flatter and less drooping than some coneflower 
varieties; 'Magnus' -- extraordinarily showy, with broad, 
flat pink petals around a brown cone, and chosen as 
perennial plant of the year for 1998 by the Perennial Plant 
Association; 'White Lustre' -- reflexed white petals around 
an orange cone; and 'White Swan' -- white flowers with a 
deep orange cone at the center; this variety comes true 
from seed.

Tennessee Coneflower (E. tennesseensis). This species is 
also on the endangered species list. Tennessee coneflower is 
known from only five natural populations in central Tennessee. 
(The United States Fish and Wildlife Service must license 
all nursery sources seeking to sell these plants in inter-
state commerce.)

The plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall. Flowers are deep pink with 
pinkish green centers and upturned petals, and leaves are 
medium to dark green and narrowly lance-shaped. Tennessee 
coneflower adapts well to cultivation and is easy to start 
from seed though it's not quite as cold-hardy as other 
coneflowers. I recommend it only as far north as zone 4.

Where to Buy
Seeds and plants are available from mail-order sources. Many 
nurseries offer 1-gallon plants in their perennial sections.

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           GopherCentral's Question of the Week   

Should the Guantanamo Bay prison be closed?

Question of the Week   
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