"Bring me the sunset in a cup."
A veritable revolution in coneflowers began in the new millenium, with wondrous varieties introduced every year, of a genus that had for too long been restricted to a very few standard cultivars mainly in the same shades of purple.
New varieties have added increased scent & a much wider range of color, including the unusual pale "citron yellow" variety 'Sunrise,' with larger than average blooms easily four inches & up to five inches across.
Like several of the newer cultivars, it boasts a pleasing scent, but you have to get your nose close & add a bit of imagination.
Here in Zone 8 on Puget Sound, it flowers July through October with easy reliability, as the photo up top is from July, those below from October, looking pretty even.
Although usually its color is predictable from beginning to end, occasionally it throws up variations from time to time, such as in the third photo (an August snap) which is such a faded yellow it's almost white.
Several of the modern cultivated forms do have an unpredictability of color & not always the advertised ideal, but always something nice, & they don't actually revert or permanently change, they just behave in a variable manner.
'Sunrise' is a cross of the ultra-hardy Echinacea purpurea with the less often seen yellow species E. paradoxa. Tough stems can be as thick around as pencils, so not prone to lodging, & very sturdy for cut flowers.
It can reach three feet in height but usually closer to two or two & a half feet, & very compact as to foliage. It just about qualifies as semi-dwarf, the enormous bloom size notwithstanding.
The cone begins greenish & ages to gold. The pale yellow petals start out partially folded like cigarette papers, overlapping when they are fully opened for an extremely substantial full-bodied bloom.
The blooms start out not reflexed at all, but even slightly turned upward. As they mature they are never strongly reflexed as with the usual purple echinacea but are at most subtly drooping.
'Sunrise' was widely introduced in 2005 together with the red-magenta nearly-orange 'Sundown.'
It was developed by the Saul brothers Bob & Richard & Bob's wife Kathy, owners of the Itsaul Nurseries in Atlanta, Georgia, the nursery was founded in 1998, but already sending shockwaves of delight throughout the gardening world.
The Sauls had previously owned Saul Nurseries where they experimented with breeding, but tended to just sell or give away as gifts whatever the came up with.
When their creations began to appear from other growers & in other catalogs, they realized they'd better set up a company for the copyright protection & liscensing of the fruits of their creative process, & Itsaul was born, adding Ozzie Johnson & Karen Stever to the company team of owners.
To get a new specimen established, plant it in moist well-drained soil in full sun & don't let it get too droughty the first year. Thereafter it will be vastly more drought hardy & take practically no care at all, though 'Sunrise' is never as drought-tolerant as the old standard purples & it will always need a some watering in the longest hottest days of summer.
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