H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Echinacea Purpurea - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Echinacea Purpurea Described.
Echinacea Purpurea - Syn. Rudbeckia Purpurea; Purple Cone-flower; Nat. Ord. Compositæ.
In the autumn season one is almost confined to Composites, but in this subject there is, at any rate, a change, as regards colour. Yellows are indispensable, but then predominate too strongly. The flower under notice is a peculiar purple with greenish-white shadings. This will doubtless sound undesirable, but when the flower is seen it can hardly fail to be appreciated. It is much admired; in fact it is stately, sombre, and richly beautiful—not only an "old-fashioned" flower, but an old inhabitant of English gardens, coming, as it did, from North America in the year 1699. In every way the plant is distinct; it does not produce many flowers, but they individually last for several weeks, and their metallic appearance is a fitting symbol of their durability. They begin to expand in the early part of September, and well-established plants will have bloom until cut off by frost.
The flowers are borne at the height of 2ft. to 3ft., and are produced singly on very thick, rigid stalks, long, nearly nude, grooved, furnished with numerous short, bristle-like hairs, and gradually thickening up to the involucrum of the flower. Said involucrum is composed of numerous small leaves, a distinguishing trait from its nearest relative genus Rudbeckia. The receptacle or main body of the flower is very bulky; the ray is fully 4in. across, the florets being short for so large a ray; they are set somewhat apart, slightly reflexed, plaited, and rolled at the edges, colour reddish-purple, paling off at the tips to a greyish-green; the disk is very large, rather flat, and furnished with spine-like scales, whence the name Echinacea, derived from echinus (a hedgehog). In smelling this flower contact should therefore be avoided; it is rather forbidding; the disk has changeable hues of red, chocolate, and green. The leaves of the root are oval, some nearly heart-shaped, unevenly toothed, having long channelled stalks; those of the stems are lance-shaped, distinctly toothed, of stouter substance, short stalked, and, like those of the root, distinctly nerved, very rough on both sides, and during September quickly changes to a dark, dull, purple colour. The habit of the plant is rather "dumpy;" being spare of foliage, thick and straight in the stems, which are drum-stick like; it is for all that a pleasing subject when in flower; I consider the blooms too stiff for cutting, more especially as they face upwards.
Unlike many species of its order, it is somewhat fickle. I have lost many plants of it; it likes neither shade nor too much moisture; latterly I have found it to do well in a sunny situation, in deep rich loam and vegetable soil mixed. If planted with other ray flowers it forms a fine contrast, and when once it has found suitable quarters the more seldom it is disturbed the better. It may be propagated by division, which may be more safely done after growth has fairly started in spring, or it may be done at the sacrifice of the flowers in late summer or early autumn, before growth or root action has ceased.
Flowering period, September to end of October.
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