SG580: The Echinacea Evolution!

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SG580: The Echinacea Evolution!

Today’s show is all about Echinacea - it’s my all-time favorite American native perennial. In fact, one of my first recommendations to new gardeners who are looking for ornamental perennials is Echinacea. Like my Grandmother Bernadette, Echinacea is a daughter of the prairie, absolutely beautiful, and tough as nails.   And, I predict you’re going to be absolutely crazy about it - if you aren’t already.

Between now and the end of summer, gardeners appreciate any perennial that provides a fresh pop of color and vigor - something to tide them over until Fall.  Naturally, Black-eyed Susans fit the bill.  But for me, it’s tough to beat the brilliance of Echinacea in the garden this time of year.  Additionally, if you’ve never grown one of the new varieties - hold onto your plants - because you are in for a beautiful blast of color!

And, don’t even get me started on how easy they are to grow. Echinacea love full sun. They are drought tolerant. Perhaps best of all, they are a power pollinator plant. I’ve said it before (most recently in my Basilmania Episode where I sing the praises of basil): At some point in your development as a gardener, you want to grow something that is just a natural home run. Echinacea fits the bill. With all of the varieties and colors on the market today - you really can’t go wrong with Echinacea.


I mentioned earlier in the introduction, that today’s deep dive into The Echinacea Evolution is just the beginning of the story of what has been happening to this plant over the past 13 years.  Breeders are creating an ever more beautiful color palette for Echinacea. In fact, it was so fun to look at posts on social media as I was researching this Episode. Invariably, people express disbelief and an instant desire for these incredible new selections.  Saying, “I must have this” or “It is on my list!” or “perfection.” or “I love this plant!” or my favorite “This must be an April fools”.  Indeed, these new varieties can have an almost other-worldly, Seussical quality.

This Echinacea Evolution Episode is my little historical retrospective on Echinacea. So, if you’ve never grown a new variety, or even if you’ve never grown the old standby species purpurea, it’s all good - because you’re about to be given just about as much information as a gardener can handle when it comes to Echinacea. And I’m totally serious about this. 

In fact, this is probably the most challenging Episode I’ve put together, because there really isn’t a comprehensive resource capturing this exciting time in Echinacea breeding. I had to piece a lot of this information together all on my own.  Ultimately, I’m hoping that it inspires you - in the same way it’s inspired me - to track down some of the new varieties to grow in my own garden and definitely to appreciate the amazing work of breeders - and incredibly it’s happening right now in our lifetime. That’s very exciting.

 
For this Echinacea Evolution show, let me give you a quick roadmap.  I'll start with how to care for Echinacea. It’s really pretty easy - but I’ve also stumbled on some great advice from the breeders themselves that should help ensure greater success for growing Echinacea in your garden. We’ll talk about propagation and challenges - including the status of the hardiness debate.  I’ll share some of the history, taxonomy, and herbal uses of Echinacea.  And, before I discuss species and specific new varieties, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize some of the amazing folks who have brought these new selections into the world: Jim Ault, Richard & Bobbie Saul, Arie Blom, Dan Heims, Kevin Hurd, Kim Hawkes, Marco van Noort, Mark Veeder, and Piet Oudolf. Finally, I’ll take you through some of the amazing new varieties of Echinacea - just know that there are over five hundred - and my list is just a fraction of the new selections. So Whew! That’s the goal for today’s show - The Echinacea Evolution.

Let’s get started!

Thanks for Listening!

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I never write reviews but this is the best gardening podcast out there. Jennifer has interesting topics and guests and is not one bit annoying like some others are. I love that she involves her kids at the end of the podcast - usually with poetry or music. Really good podcast.

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Still Growing is one of the reliably informative gardening podcasts from North America. The format consists of an intro (personal gardening status chat, seasonal remarks), an extended interview with a guest, and an outro with funny outtakes, side remarks, and some chatter (poems, readings) from the host's children. The podcast is focused on reliable knowledge - the guests are typically experts like academics, master gardeners, gardening entrepreneurs or public garden leaders. The intro and especially the outro give it a homey feel. Given I live in the high northern region, just a little below the Polar Circle, I'm always looking for more cold-weather oriented gardening information. Jennifer Ebeling is in Minnesota, so that's helpful to me! Vegetable gardening (my main interest) gets a good share, but is not predominant. Most topics transcend your specific gardening interest and are applicable to many styles: landscaping principles, vermicomposting, greenhouses. The episodes are typically an hour long, which is just fine for me.

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Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
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