The last few weeks I have seen Echinacea in trials that were pretty amazing. There was the fiery orange red variety called Hot Papaya that also had a most unique shape. Then I saw a yellow orange selection called Flame Thrower. It was PowWow Wild Berry however that captured my heart like no other purple coneflower I have ever seen.
Oddly enough, in a world where purple coneflowers are changing colors it is precisely the old fashioned look that stole the show as far as I am concerned. Varieties of all flowers seem to be arriving at a pace that gardeners and horticulturists alike find mind boggling. PowWow Wild Berry believe it or not was an All-America Selections Award Winner in 2010. It did not get the press it deserved; you simply must give this one a try.
PowWow Wild Berry is like the little engine that could or the small thoroughbred racehorse with the big heart that wins the race. It is small and compact by Echinacea standards but produces an incredibly large number of flowers and over a long period of time. The plants reach about 16 to 20 inches in height with a spread of around 16-18 inches.
The branching on this plant is one of the award-winning characteristics. It might not be something you would even think about until you see the number of flowers, and ask yourself, how did that happen? The flower color really is a deep dark berry color, and like most Echinacea will prove to be a tasty treat for bees and butterflies. If you leave some old blooms for winter you will also notice you are feeding some of your favorite birds as well.
Early spring is the best time to plant purple coneflowers even though now is when we are reaping the rewards. Select a healthy growing transplant in a four-inch container and you will most likely find success. These small plants without buds are still producing roots, green leaves and will get happy in your garden. I also like to recommend this for rudbeckias, Shasta daisies and coreopsis. PowWow Wild Berry is also known for its ability to produce incredible flowers on its first year from seed. You can sow these in your beds in early fall or start as transplants in January.
Choose a site in full sun for best flower performance. While the soil need not be luxuriantly fertile, on the other hand if it takes a stick of dynamite or a jackhammer to break apart, plan on incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter. While tilling, go ahead and work in two pounds of a slow release 12-6-6 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed space. Space your plants 8 to 14 inches apart. An informal teardrop or figure 8-shaped shaped drift will look awesome once they are blooming.
Your partnership opportunities with the PowWow Wild Berry are unlimited. I love them with blue salvias like Cathedral Deep Blue Salvia farinacea or the Mystic Spires Blue, which is best known as a compact Indigo Spires. I like the idea of combining them with Indian Summer rudbeckias, New Gold lantana or pastel yellow flowered Moonbeam coreopsis. Include some ornamental grass and you'll have a garden that will be the envy of the neighborhood.
Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus Ga., and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and the highly acclaimed "Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden." Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.