the
ECHINACEA
RENAISSANCE

ECH Kismet series

A BREAK WITH THE PAST. A new set of rules. A higher bar. This describes the state of Echinaceas today. Led by series like the Kismet and Sombrero, the modern coneflower is nothing like the one we sold a decade ago. Now there are more vibrant colors, more stems, longer seasons, bigger flowers, and better lifespans. This jump in quality is the result of less focus on the flower alone and more attention to the overall plant. Renaissance breeding doesn’t stop with one or two breeders. The definition of success for the entire Echinacea category has shifted. Our new introductions include many improvements, not just one or two interesting features.

ECH Kim's Knee High

In the Beginning . . .

In the decades after World War II, as the housing market expanded to fuel the rise of the ornamental industry, the purpurea defined Echinacea. This era led to the pink coneflower as the classic look for the genre. Refinements focused on taming the wild plant and making it suitable for home gardens. The pinnacle of achievement was the nicest pink coneflower, and that stage of Echinacea still survives in ‘Magnus’ (tall) and ‘Kim’s Knee High’ (medium). Both are still sold today.

ECH Tomato Soup

Colors!

In 2004, Jim Ault in Illinois shocked the industry with the introduction of ‘Orange Meadowbrite’. Breeders still talk about the mind-bending moment—a coneflower that wasn’t pink! Other breeders, like the Saul Brothers (the Big Sky series) in Georgia and Dan Heims (‘Tomato Soup’, ‘Mac ’n’ Cheese’) in Oregon took notice, and the race was on to develop colors, more colors, and even more colors.

ECH Hot Papaya

Doubles!

For the longest time, Echinaceas had only one form. Then, like colors, new choices appeared. Doubles were the result of a mutation creating petals from the quills of the central cone. Many of these innovative doubles came from Europe. At its height, this pom-pom style overtook singles in popularity with cultivars like ‘Hot Papaya’.

ECH Kismet Raspberry

A New Attitude

The incredible variety of coneflower seemed to peak about a decade ago. Every conceivable color and form was released and all possible genetic twists had been wrung out of the genome. Where could Echincaeas go from here?.

However, during this peak, feedback from the market caused breeders to re-think their strategies. Here and there, answers began to appear: multi-floral crowns, bigger stems, better winter survival, and longer lifespans. Attention shifted to improvements in the plant, not just the flower.

ECH Kismet Intense Orange and Raspberry

Hallmarks of Change

Renaissance breeding combines most of these improved features, and the very best Echinacea has all of these benefits in a single plant. A premium coneflower produces large, colorful flowers on thick stems in high numbers. It blooms longer, ages well, and survives better when compared to the older varieties.

Multi-Floral Crowns

An early innovation was abundance—the ability of a single crown to produce multiple floral stems. This benefit resulted in heavy bloom counts on a single plant.

Robust
Plants

Large bloom counts required robust plants to generate all those flowers. Thicker stems and hardier roots helped improve the blooms perched above them.

Vibrant
Colors

Quality of color also changed. Shades became increasingly vibrant. More durable pigments were selected, so the color lasted longer as well.

Color
Aging

Maintaining a consistent color over time is nearly impossible, but breeders can select specimens that age to a second attractive hue. These flowers have a much longer garden appeal.

Winter
Survival

Breeders also began to select plants for their ability to survive wet winters. Not all gardens have ideal winter drainage, especially in dense soils like clay.

Longer
Lifespans

Gathered together, these improvements deliver better performance over time. In our trials, the new cultivars live longer than the older ones when planted side-by-side.


Understanding Our Echinaceas

Many, many cultivars of Echinacea are sold on the market. When choosing varieties we focus on key features we admire, not just one but several. Bundled together, they make a plant garden worthy and desirable. We must want to grow it in our own gardens, and we often do.

The Kismet Series

Kismets are best-known for their five-inch blooms and the tall, bushy stance of their plants. Because the entire Kismet series was developed from a single breeding program, varieties are remarkably consistent in height and habit. The Kismets also wrap all the Renaissance traits into a single package: multi-floral crowns, robust plants, vibrant color, long seasons, and a longer lifespan.

ECH Kismet Intense Orange

Kismet Intense Orange

ECH Kismet Raspberry

Kismet Raspberry

ECH Kismet Red

Kismet Red

ECH Kismet White

Kismet White

ECH Kismet Yellow

Kismet Yellow

The Sombrero Series

Sombrero is focused on providing a wider range of colors and continuously improving its stock. ‘Sombrero Yellow Improved’, for example, is the finest single yellow on the market right now. As a series, Sombreros are shorter and tighter in habit and they bloom with a three-inch flower. They also have more variation among their heights and habits.

ECH Sombrero Adobe Orange

Sombrero Adobe Orange

ECH Sombrero Baja Burgundy

Sombrero Baja Burgundy

ECH Sombrero Granada Gold

Sombrero Granada Gold

ECH Sombrero Lemon Improved

Sombrero Lemon Improved

ECH Sombrero Salsa Red

Sombrero Salsa Red

ECH Sombrero Sangrita

Sombrero Sangrita

ECH Sombrero Tres Amigos

Sombrero Tres Amigos

Doubles & Semi-Doubles

Echinaceas develop into doubles when the quills of the central cone mutate into petals instead. The result is a fuzzy pom-pom style of bloom with the ring petals drooping underneath. Then there is ‘Delicious Candy’, whose quills in the central cone are actually immature petals.

ECH Butterfly Kisses

Butterfly Kisses

ECH Delicious Candy

Delicious Candy

ECH Double Scoop Cranberry

Double Scoop Cranberry

ECH Double Scoop Mandarin

Double Scoop Mandarin

ECH Hot Papaya

Hot Papaya

ECH Lovely Lolly

Lovely Lolly

ECH Raspberry Truffle

Raspberry Truffle

The Short Ones

Over the decades, the average height of Echinaceas has shortened and tightened. ‘Kim’s Knee High’ used to be promoted as the short one. We now sell it as a coneflower of medium height. Recent breeding has introduced several very short coneflowers.

ECH Sombrero Poco Hot Coral

Sombrero Poco Hot Coral

Full Sun · 14 to 16 inches
Zones 4 to 9 · PP23097

‘Hot Coral’ was always the smallest of the Sombrero series. Darwin has paired it with a yellow to create a dwarf line of Echinacea. Rebranded as ‘Sombrero Poco Hot Coral’, it’s the same plant with a new name.

ECH Sombrero Poco Yellow

Sombrero Poco Yellow

Full Sun · 14 to 16 inches
Zones 4 to 9 · PPAF

This Echinacea launches the Poco subbrand of Sombreros, focusing on short and compact plants. Flower width is roughly the same as a full-sized Sombrero, but the plant is several shorter and more narrow in shape.

ECH Tweety

Tweety

Full Sun · 14 to 16 inches
Zones 5 to 9 · PP23347
Another European contribution, ‘Tweety’ is a Dutch coneflower with a solid yellow surrounded by a golden eye. It grows just over a foot, the shortest Echinacea we sell.

The Bicolors

Renaissance breeding continues to bring innovations to the Echinacea market. Once a rare feature, several new bicolor varieties have appeared in a variety of forms.
ECH Yellow Rainbow Marcella

Butterfly Yellow Rainbow Marcella

Full Sun · 12 to 15 inches
Zones 4 to 9 · PP30410
A short Echinacea, ‘Yellow Rainbow Marcella’ has one of prettiest bicolors with the standard coneflower profile.
ECH Fiery Meadow Mama

Fiery Meadow Mama

Full Sun · 20 to 24 inches
Zones 5 to 9 · PPAF
The best example of a pallada-style Echinacea with drooping petals and strong red eye surrounding the cone. Requires a full winter to achieve a fully multi-floral crown.
ECH Playful Meadow Mama

Playful Meadow Mama

Full Sun · 20 to 24 inches
Zones 5 to 9 · PPAF
An unusual flower with Dahlia-like tips to the petals, the flower itself is quite large. Occasionally, you will see specimens with a double set of ring petals.
ECH Green Twister

Green Twister

Full Sun · 24 to 36 inches
Zones 3 to 8
A sport of ‘Magnus’ with green tipped petals, ‘Green Twister’ has the same large flowers rising high on tall stems. Very hardy.

The Mixes

These mixes provide a variety of colors within a single purchase. ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ grows shorter (2 to 3 feet) than ‘Mellow Yellows’ (about 3 feet).
ECH Cheyenne Spirit

Cheyenne Spirit

Full Sun · 24 to 36 inches
Zones 4 to 9
This cultivar built the Autumn Perennial market with its well-timed blooms in yellows, oranges and reds.
ECH Mellow Yellows

Mellow Yellows

Full Sun · 32 inches
Zones 4 to 8
A dappled mix along the axis of yellow: creams, butters, lemons, saffrons and goldenrods

Classics You Remember

Many earlier varieties still sell well because their signature feature are so well loved. Not all varieties tarnish with age. These cultivars are fondly remembered and frequently bought by gardeners, landscapers and planners who return to their favorites.
ECH Big Sky Solar Flare

Big Sky Solar Flare

Full to Partial Sun · 24 to 36 inches
Zones 3 to 9 · PP22133
The five-inch magenta-red blooms has a deeply brown cone sitting on an equally dark stem. A good source of seed for birding gardens.
ECH Big Sky Sundown

Big Sky Sundown

Full to Partial Sun · 30 inches
Zones 4 to 9 · PP17659
Produced by the Saul Brothers in George, ‘Big Sky Sundown’ is the tall orange one with thick stems and a light fragrance. Cone is larger than usual, which becomes an ideal bird feeding station when it goes to seed.
ECH Kim's Knee High

Kim's Knee High

Full to Partial Sun · 18 inches
Zones 3 to 9 · PP12242
Back in the day, ‘Kim's Knee High’ used to be promoted as a short coneflower. Now it is average in height. It shows how industry expectations have changed over the past 40 years.
ECH Orange Skipper

Magnus

Full Sun · about 48 inches
Zones 4 to 9
Harvested in Sweden and commericalized by the European seed company Jelitto, this Echinaca defines the classic Echinacae with a large pink flower.
ECH Pica Bella

Pica Bella

Full Sun · 36 inches
Zones 4 to 8
Jim Ault of Chicagoland Grows developed one of the first multi-floral crowns through his crosses with other overlooked species. Very heavy bloom count.
Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup

Full Sun · 30 inches
Zones 3 to 8 · PP19427
Bred by Terra Nova, Tomato Soup gained a siginficate fanbase during the height of the second wave of breeding for its clean reds.
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