The Echinacea Cultivar Control Board: A Modest Proposal
I’m very fond of purple coneflowers and other members of the genus Echinacea. However, there is something disconcerting about the multitude of occasionally bizarre Echinacea cultivars being put out by plant breeders. I mean, what was the thinking behind Echinacea ‘Double Decker’?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a straight species purist. I plant cultivars. But why develop cultivars that negate the essential character of the plant? For example, the whole idea of a coneflower is the central cone. It’s in the name, right? And yet, we have this.
What’s this supposed to be, a dahlia? A double zinnia? It’s certainly no coneflower.
What’s more, based on the comments generated by my last post, it seems that the Echinacea cultivars are frequently not garden-worthy. I had written that I was considering Echinacea ‘Tikki Torch’ because I wanted a taller orange perennial. Almost without exception, the commenters advised against such a move. In their experience, the cultivars often had problems with disease resistance and making it through the winter.
Their reaction confirmed my reflexive resistance to Echinacea cultivars, which was based on a gut feeling that even the less peculiar ones just didn’t look right.
(NOTE: the above three photos all come from bluestoneperennials.com.)
In any case, we as gardeners must stand up for that great genus, Echinacea, before it’s too late. But how?
I would propose the creation of a Federal Echinacea Cultivar Control Board (FECCB). The FECCB would be empowered to prevent commercial production and sale of Echinacea varieties that are just too stupid for words. Doesn’t the European Union do something like this?
All Echinacea cultivars would be subject to FECCB approval. The Board would divide cultivars into three categories:
- Nice. These would be cleared for distribution without any restrictions.
- If You Must. These could be produced and sold, but only with an official FECCB sticker which reads: “WARNING: Purchase of this plant may make you feel silly in a year or two.”
- You’re Kidding, Right? These cultivars would be banned. Possession of a small number for sale would be a misdemeanor, massing for greater impact would be a felony.
With the creation of the FECCB, we can rest assured that Echinaceas have been saved for future generations. Thank you