Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have, over time, become garden staples at least here in our part of the country, where it is native to the midwest and prairie states. This stand took up residence here back in 1999 when we first started planting up the area out front, and if memory serves, I think we just planted three very small ones that year. They've spread rapidly since then and every year we either have to pull a lot of new ones growing in inopportune places or we just give them away to other gardeners.
We never go wanting for these splendid summer beauties and know we can always count on a good two months' bloom period before they start to wane in the fall. They're bee magnets (as you can see in the last two shots here today), butterflies love them and when the cones dry up in the fall, we're usually visited frequently by appreciative goldfinches who love the seeds. They also, I suspect, account for why there are always so many new seedlings coming up everywhere, given birds' messy ways of eating!
Aside from their sheer beauty and food value for desirable garden visitors, Echinacea purpurea also is a splendid choice for many other reasons ... its reputed medicinal value among others. Its easygoing yet tough nature makes it an almost ideal perennial for those who want low maintenance colour in the garden, because once well established, they are very drought tolerant and thrive in the hot sun of the mid summer months. And with a bloom time from late June through September it's hard to fault these hard working plants on any count!
I took these shots early this evening, just as the bees were really getting going feeding on the coneflowers and neighboring bee balm, and just after I came inside to upload these photos, our friend the hummingbird was back working the bee balm as well. When I went back out after uploading these, the whole front bed was just buzzing with activity with dozens of bumblebees and honey bees busily visiting the area.
The first shot is an angle I thought rather demonstrative of their growing space, along with the Bee Balm (which alas is starting to fade a bit when you get up close). The second is one of my favorite ways to get coneflowers up close ... with a bee! That's pretty easy to do usually, with our hive of bumblebees somewhere in the yard, so I can just about count on being able to capture at least a few if I bide my time. And in the third shot I even managed to get not one, but two kinds of bees ... a honey and bumblebee working separately on the same flower. There had been three on it at once but the other one flew away right before I got this shot. We really know summer has truly arrived when the scene out front takes on these wonderful hues of red and purple, and we can be assured that the blazing month of July is fully underway. Soon the hibiscus will be dazzling us ... and frankly, I can hardly wait!