It’s Monday(ok tuesday – i got delayed with all these jubilee celebrations!) – the day of plants and gardens….

The garden should be adorned with roses and lilies, the turnsole, violets, and mandrake; there you should have parsley, cost, fennel, southern-wood, coriander, sage, savory, hyssop, mint, rue, dittany, smallage, pellitory, lettuces, garden-cress, and peonies.

There should also be beds planted with onions, leeks, garlic, pumpkins and shallots. The cucumber growing in its lap, the drowsy poppy, the daffodil and brank-ursine ennoble a garden.

Nor are there wanting, if occasion further thee, pottage-herbs: beets, herb-mercury, orache, sorrel and mallows, anise, mustard, white pepper and wormwood do good service to the gardener.
Alexander of Neckham, Of the Nature of Things, 1187

What a wonderful garden this would be…i can imagine it in my minds eye, all swaying herbs, dappled with spring flowers, tumbling roses, pert lilies, voluptuos peonies..and the salad this would make – wonderful!

potager
maybe it would look a little like this…
A medieval woodcut of herb gatherers.

Before i begin this first post i have to declare that i am not a trained gardener but just a lover of gardens. I love visiting gardens, planting gardens, sitting in gardens, picking flowers and placing them in pots on tables, growing vegetables and fruits and salads. I love watching seeds rear their heads from their planted homes and returning from holidays and noticing the difference from the week before.

Today i am going to talk to you about the lovely echinacea plant / flower – many of you will may know this plant as the herbal drug that you can commonly find used to treat the common cold. Echinacea  is a genus of herbacous flowering in the daisy family, Asteracae.  The common name “cone flower” comes from the characteristic center “cone” at the center of the flower. The generic name Echinacea is rooted in the Greek word (echinos), meaning sea urchin, it references the spiky appearance and feel of the flower heads. Echinacea plants also reseed in the fall. New flowers will grow where seeds have fallen from the prior year.

These coneflowers deserve all the attention they get. They will flower over a very long period – sometimes for up to 3 months – need little attention and will fit easily into most planting schemes. The flowers will attract bees and butterflies, and if you leave them on the plant they will form seed-heads which the birds will love.

The spiny center of the head showing the paleae, from which the name derives. 

According to Wallace Sampson, MD, its modern day use as a treatment for the common cold began when a Swiss herbal supplement maker was “erroneously told” that echinacea was used for cold prevention by Native American tribes who lived in the area of South Dakota. Although Native American tribes didn’t use echinacea to prevent the common cold, some Plains tribes did use echinacea to treat some of the symptoms that could be caused by the common cold: The Kiowa used it for coughs and sore throats, the Cheyenne for sore throats, the Pawnee for headaches, and many tribes including the Lakotah used it as an analgesic.

Native Americans learned of the plant by observing elk seeking out the plants and consuming them when sick or wounded, and identified those plants as elk root.

For gardeners, however, Echinacea purpurea is a versatile herbaceous perennial with handsome, long-lasting flowers. It is sturdy and self-supporting, hardy, easy to grow, undemanding, suitable both for the formal border and the meadow look. Because of its sturdiness, Echinacea purpurea looks particularly good as contrast with plants that have more delicate or feathery foliage, such as the purple fennel Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’, the silver-leaved Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and decorative grasses including Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldschleier’ and ‘Bronzeschleier’

Most people know the purple version of the plant- Echinacea purpurea, but i have recently discovered some beautiful new (ish) varieties i would like to share with you…

echinacea purperea coconut lime

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya'

The Echinacea Trials

Echinacea 'Daydream': new in the 2012 RHS Plantfinder. Image ©Terra Nova Nurseries
Echinacea Daydream
One of the most stunning of the many new echinaceas is this mouth-water-inducing coneflower called 'Green Jewel'.  Amazing large flowers, pale green with deeper tips.  Refreshing on a hot summer's day, with or without a mint julep.
One of the most stunning of the many new echinaceas is this mouth-water-inducing coneflower called ‘Green Jewel’. Amazing large flowers, pale green with deeper tips. Refreshing on a hot summer’s day, with or without a mint julep.
‘Secret Affair’ is a marvelous double-flower that combines rich tyrian-rose, mauve and lavender colors.

SOME PLANTING COMBINATIONS FOR ECHINACEA

Echinacea purpurea and Eryngium giganteum
Echinacea pallida, Eryngium yuccifolium + Veronicastrum virginicum Lavendelturm in  spiky plants planting combination, Piet Oudolf border
Echinacea pallida, Eryngium yuccifolium + Veronicastrum virginicum Lavendelturm in spiky plants planting combination
New perennial border with Perovskia Blue Spire, Echinacea Rubinstern, Lythrum Fire Candle and Eupatorium purpureum - Lady Farm, Somerset (4150-101417 / 0128379 © GAP)
New perennial border with Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’, Echinacea ‘Rubinstern’, Lythrum ‘Fire Candle’ and Eupatorium purpureum – Lady Farm, Somerset
Butterfly Haven
Liatris and echinacea are favorites of butterflies and make a stunning combination in the display garden.
echinacea and russian sage
Echinacea and Salva(russian sage) Combination

GROWING TIPS FOR ECHINCAEA

The entire family of cone flower or Echinacea loves the open sunny garden. It thrives in drier gardens than most other plants so it is a good plant for that hot, dry spot. Do water it to establish new plantings but once established, it can thrive on its own. The really nice thing about this plant is that it will also tolerate some light shade and good soil. The only thing that will shorten an echinacea lifespan are heavy clay soils or constantly damp soils; it does not like to have its roots constantly wet. It likes good drainage. I have found the plant does really well in moderately fertile soils and if there is enough water in mid summer when it is setting seed, there is no problem with obtaining more plants. (Other perennial flower tips along with Echinacea can be found at http://www.gardening-tips-perennials.com)

So that’s it for my first belated monday plant / gardens post, i hope you have enjoyed it – keri – Humble Cottage xx

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4 comments

    • I’ma big fan of that too and the coconut lime…gosh its kind of making me feel hungry! x

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