New Echinaceas

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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Lucy Hardiman

Not long ago I read an article penned by an esteemed garden writer offering opinions about what is hot and what is not in the gardening world. It seems as if my homemade mosaic bench, bricks and knickknacks are not only passé but déclassé. Several paragraphs later the author divulged the news that perennials, those high maintenance divas, are no longer in fashion. Relegated to the compost pile they have been supplanted by easy care shrubs. Well, the pundits and trendsetters can say what they will but frivolous, flowery perennials make my horticultural heart sing.

I don't even want to try to imagine a garden devoid of floral surprises. Don't get me wrong, my garden is filled with deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees of all sizes and shapes. In my garden,trees, and large shrubs are the walls and ceiling creating enclosure and intimacy. Medium sized and small shrubs bring the garden down to a human scale. They form the structural backdrop of the garden. But it is the ephemeral and fleeting nature of many perennials that fill me with child-like delight throughout the year. My pursuit of new perennials is relentless- perusing catalogs, devouring publications devoted to new plant introductions and scanning the internet-in search of exceptional new treasures to trial.

Last year the Chicago Botanic Garden in conjunction with Chicagoland Grows announced the introduction of Echinacea 'Art's Pride,' the first coneflower with orange petals. News traveled fast about this remarkable new plant that is the product of a breeding program at the Chicago Botanic Garden that focuses on developing varieties of popular native plants. The trademark name Orange Meadowbrite alludes to the slender orange petals and its native antecedents. Research divulged that during its first year on the market this long awaited lovely would be available in some Midwest garden centers and through mail order catalogs. Frustrated by the inability to purchase Orange Meadowbrite locally I was thrilled to receive it as a thank you gift. A spicy, orange- tea fragrance emanated from the flowers as I planted it in full sun in well-drained soil next to Penstemon 'Blue Midnight'. Watch for Orange Meadowbrite to make an appearance at your local nursery this spring. Its drought tolerance and deep-green, glossy disease resistant foliage add to its cachet.

Garden gurus can't deter me from celebrating perennial pleasures in my garden. If I live long enough I might even have the last laugh. All good soothsayers should know that the circular rhythms of fashion dictate that in the not too distant future perennials shall rise again.

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