How does Your Garden Grow?

Red coneflower turns white and purple in the Grabell garden.

Red coneflower turns white and purple in the Grabell garden.

Louise Grabell

I’ve had some past “mysteries” occur in my garden that I’ve shared with you. Like, where did the spider lily bulbs come from, or how did snails get into my garden? Well, I have another mystery for you – something totally unexplainable, yet wondrous in its own way. It’s all about my purple coneflowers, which I mentioned last month as an excellent perennial.

Let me begin at the beginning. Purple coneflowers (echinacea) are actually purple! Some may call them mauve or dark pink, but they are described as purple in all the gardening references, though these days, they also are available in other colors due to mutation and hybridization.

I love white coneflowers. You could say I like white-purple coneflowers, but that would be confusing. Anyway, I’ve been given gifts of the white variety, but after a time, the plants failed. So, on my many visits to a favorite east side garden center, I purchased the white variety. The first time I did this, the white turned out to be purple coneflowers. But I loved them just the same. The second purchase pulled the same trick on me! The third time, I waited until the coneflowers where in full bloom at the nursery before I made my purchase. Now for sure, I owned a prized white coneflower plant. Well, much to my dismay, this one, too, seemed to not be happy in my garden. Imagine that. After all, I have the Garden of Eden; what is going on? The following spring, up came some echinacea sprouts where I thought the white variety had died, and I was so happy. Wrong! The darned plant only produced purple flowers. Luckily, a little seedling among my rock walkway grew up into a white coneflower. Now I was in business. I transplanted this treasure last spring and it seems to be happy, and white, so far.

The story is not over because I spied a red coneflower at a favorite west side nursery and decided to add it to my echinacea collection. After two years, it was growing a bit stunted in one location, so I decided to move it elsewhere for better exposure and more room. Voila! It was happy and so was I. After a time, it was getting crowded out by another perennial, so I shifted it to a spot nearby, and this spring it sprouted and grew even taller and lusher than before. I was excited to see those gorgeous, red blooms adding brilliance to my garden. Hold on! What was happening? In the very spot where I had moved the red coneflower plant, there was white and purple ones. I think next year I will buy a yellow coneflower and see what happens!

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Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.