Plant of the week- Echinacea purpurea ‘Virgin’

Sometimes, with some groups of plants, it’s so difficult to pick out one outstanding plant from so many that are indeed all outstanding, both in colour, growth and all they bring to the party within our borders. That’s certainly the case this month with the Echinaceas. The range of colours from the original purple tones to bright pink and orange, down to the pastels of mellow yellows and whites and of course their differing heights as well of mix areas of use, from the traditional borders, pots and right to the fashionable prairie style plantings. It’s the prairie style planting that really has brought these plants to the forefront, where 100’s of forms are now being bred. As per any big breeding, plants come and go but some are real stayers and this I think is one of those.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Virgin’ is a beautiful form of the purple coneflower, coneflowers are members of the daisy family that live in the prairies and open wooded areas of eastern and central North America. The name ‘Echinacea’ comes from the Greek word ekhinos, meaning hedgehog, the centre of these plants, do look like a little hedgehog with its spines poking out.

They flower from mid summer until the first frosts really and are easy to look after, just a bit of spent bloom removal and keep the slugs and snails at bay when they first start coming up in the spring. They are pretty happy in most soils as long as it doesn’t get too water logged during the winter months as sometimes they will rot off if they get too damp. This beautiful form was selected by one of the greatest plantsman and one of the main driving forces in the new perennial movement, that is still so popular, with its prairie style planting, Piet Oudolf. This delightful white form grows to 45cm tall and does have a slight fragrance. Like all echinacea, it is loved by all the pollinating insects, like bees and butterflies.

It’s well worth going to RHS Wisley, as they are growing Echinacea in their trials area and they do include this one. It is also for sale on Claire Austins website if you fancy adding one to your garden!

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