Red Coneflower

"There was once a man & a woman who had long in vain wished for a child. These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen, which was full of the most beautiful flowers & herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, & no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an enchantress."

Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm

With dark reddish-pink flowers July through October, Echinacea x purpurea 'Twilight' is among the last of our coneflowers to be in full bloom, though only behind the others by a week or two. It spreads into a substantial clump a foot or eighteen inches with two feet of foliage out of which rise long-lasting flowers to three feet (or less), in considerable numbers.

Twilight'Twilight' or "Big Sky 'Twilight'" fills pretty much the same garden-value as the old standard 'Kim's Knee High.' The petals droop more & the color's ratjer darker, & the large "hedgehog" or cone is maroon-red. It's fairly hardy but 'Kim's' is hardier, so it needs to be in a comparatively cared-for location. It's more than commonly floriferous, but so is 'Kim's Knee High.'

Best for Zones 7 & 8, it is advertised as suited down to Zone 5, though don't count on that. It needs a good cold winter as without one it won't repeat its life cycle (so not a plant for the hot southwest), but if the ground actually freezes solid, this one's kaput, so there are limitations how far north 'Twilight' will thrive.

It wants full sun with occasional watering at high summer. In the rain season it's at some risk of rotting out, so perfect drainage is essential, or a month of persistently wet weather will stunt or kill it. It'll tolerate a little shade either morning or afternoon but not both.

It was bred in 2003 by Richard Saul of Georgia. It's a cross between Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' pollinated by a nameless P. purpurea x paradoxa hybrid.

Though advertised as scented, you won't notice any scent unless you press your nose against the sharp cone & make a wish that you can smell it. The large leaves are deep sea green & compact. The flower stems are upright & very sturdy, never tippy.

Echinaceas have many common names other than Coneflower. Another name that alludes to the spiky cone is Hedgehog Coneflower, & the genus name is Greek for both "hedgehog" & "sea urchin."

Another of its common names, Black Sampson or Sampson Root, alludes to the color of its root & sometimes of its cone, & has fallen from fashion for being a racial allusion, though it's not as alarming as Darky-head Flower or Kansas Niggerhead after the cone, Niggerheel after the root, when not Indianhead for when the cones are purple/red.

Purple Black-Eyed Susan, Red Sunflower, Comb Flower, Rock-up Hat, Scurvy Root, Snakeroot Sunflower, and Rattlesnake Weed are other of its folk names.

The association with rattlesnakes is due to a sound that can be made with the dried cone, which gave rise to the "doctrine of signatures" speculation that it was an efficacious treatment for rattlesnake bite, which in reality it in no way treats.

Early "snake oil" salesmen sold an extract of Echinacea pretending it can negate rattlesnake venom, & one wonders how many people died along the years for failing to try something more sensible than rubbing a worthless concoction on a bite.

Today's bamboozling snake oil vendors just want you to believe it cures the common cold, though doubleblind studies have proven it does not. So the myths that it is something more valuable than "mere" garden ornamental continues apace -- an insult to a marvelous ornamental.

Continue to:
'Sunrise' Echinacea

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