The first instant I saw the coneflower, I thought it was one in a million, with its giant 5-inch-plus golden blooms that at first reminded me of a gloriosa daisy. I am talking about the new Color Coded 'One in a Melon' coneflower, making its debut next year. Last week I told you about the new Double Coded or double coneflowers Butter Pecan and Raspberry Beret, but at The Garden Guy's house, a wild kingdom is playing out on the Color Coded One in a Melon plants.
I was only able to rustle up one plant in early spring for my trials. It was like having a juicy sirloin strip and only getting one bite (oh, I wanted more), as I could tell this coneflower had the possibility of being one for the ages. It is a thoroughbred in all aspects. It is tall, reaching 24 to 26 inches with a 20-inch spread. The flowers are huge, with many exceeding 5 inches. The summer was one of heat index misery, but they persisted, just like the flaming Color Coded 'Orange You Awesome' variety.
Later on, I was able to come up with about a half-dozen more plants to temper my plant lusting. One in a Melon is special in its color progression. It starts off golden orange and matures to the melon or a vibrant butter yellow. While we often use the term "fade," reflecting that a flower lost some pizzazz, in the case of One in a Melon, its mature color is just as beautiful and complements the new emerging blossoms.
As The Garden Guy was hoping, the flowers turned their spot in the garden into a small but beautiful Serengeti for pollinators and yes, those who eat them. I often laugh at gardeners on my pollinator social sites that holler or cry about a raptor-like bird swooping in to devour a butterfly. While they implore others on how to prevent this, I'm always wanting to answer, "How lucky you are."
The Color Coded echinacea series has been a champion at bringing in an assortment of bees, and butterflies like monarchs, swallowtails, buckeyes, hairstreaks, sulphurs and more. Then there are the hunters like the green anole lizards just waiting for their version of the happy meal. Leaving some seedpods has another wonderment of nature close at hand. With the stealth-like arrival of the bright yellow American goldfinch to pick the seeds, you'll promise to yourself and nature, you will always grow coneflowers.
Color Coded 'One in a Melon' is joined in 2023 by Color Coded 'The Fuchsia is Bright,' which is just a little shorter but boasts fragrance along with colorful fuchsia and pink flowers. Coneflowers are easy to grow, they need plenty of sun and well-drained soil. The soil need not be luxuriant, but a winter bog, however, simply will not work. My first Color Coded coneflowers were planted in 2019. So this is my fourth year. If they croaked tomorrow, I would say they have been great. But they are about to put on another big flush of blooms, which is going to be perfect timing for peak butterfly season.
I don't know if you are like me, but I always have a spot or two somewhere in the landscape that starts off with a great plan or design, but the appropriation of more plants that couldn't be passed up magically transforms the area into one for the memory books. Add beautiful butterflies and you'll find yourself sitting by the winter fire thinking about the best garden ever. For my trials, Color Coded 'One in a Melon' was just such an acquisition.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)
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