The National Garden Bureau has declared 2014 the Year of the Echinacea, and I say it is about time! Echinacea is one of those rare perennials where the both the petals and the center of the flower are highly attractive, not to mention the fact that they are so easy to grow: these little troopers are so robust and healthy that they are about as close to invulnerable as a flower can get.
The NGB writes:
Echinacea was chosen as the perennial for the National Garden Bureau’s 2014 Year of program because of the vast assortment of flower colors and shapes available to today’s gardener but also because they are such an American staple. The classic flower shape continues to be a favorite in home and public gardens so it’s time we highlight the history of the “tried and true” classics as well as some of the newer varieties sure to please any home gardener.
The article chronicles Echinacea’s rise from a simple folk remedy to a pharmaceutical crop and finally to the incredibly popular perennial that it has become. The most admirable quality of Echinacea is its natural ability to fight infection. Did you know that we probably wouldn’t be growing these flowers today if it weren’t for the elk?
Echinacea angustifolia was used by Native Americans to soothe sore throats, headaches or coughs – symptoms of the common cold. They first saw the benefit of using Echinacea medicinally by observing elk that sought out the plant and ate it when wounded or sick.
It is through the medicinal cultivation of Echinacea that we fell in love with it as a perennial. I can imagine that if I were the one harvesting Echinacea root, I couldn’t help but feel bad about uprooting all those gorgeous spiky flowers!
Careful cultivation has improved both the garden performance and the beauty of this already-impressive little flower. New cultivars like Cheyenne Spirit , Eccentric, or Aloha have introduced great new forms and colors as well as qualities like enhanced cold hardiness and thicker, flop-proof stems. If you haven’t started growing Echinacea yet, this is the year for it!
The NGB also gave nods to Cucumber as the Year-of vegetable and Petunia as the Year-of annual.