It’s not every day that a truly new perennial arrives on the market, but that will be the case in 2015. An all-new hybrid, X Echibeckia, a cross between Echinacea purpurea and Rudbeckia hirta, has just been officially launched.
This is an intergeneric hybrid, that is to say a cross between two different genera rather than the more usual interspecific hybrid (between two species). As such, it is a very rare occurrence and very hard to carry out. The plant is apparently of Dutch origin and its North American distributor (Pacific Plug & Liner) is keeping mum about its origin. Is it the result of classic hybridization, with pollen from one species being applied to the flower of the other? Or in vitro fertilization? No one is talking, but I’d guess it’s some form of the latter.
There are 3 cultivars in the Summerina™ series so far: Summerina ™ Orange, Summerina ™ Yellow, and Summerina ™ Brown.
The flowers resemble those of a rudbeckia by their coloration, but the plant is resistant to rudbeckia diseases and is also said have the longevity of a Echinacea. That’s good news, as Rudbeckia hirta, its father (or its mom: we don’t know which plant provided pollen and which plant the egg!) is a very short-lived perennial, rarely lasting more than 3 or 4 years. A major plus too is that the echibeckia is said to start blooming early and to remain in flower all summer, like R. hirta, and therefore not like an echinacea, which doesn’t start its show until summer is reaching its end.
As for hardiness, that’s anyone’s guess! As far as I know, this plant has never been trialled further north than Zone 6. That said, both parent plants are very hardy, to zone 4 or even 3, so it seems highly likely that it will turn out to be just as hardy. But that’s something gardeners will need to test! Nurseries no longer seem to be interested in checking plant hardiness before launching new plants.
The comments I hear so far (the plant was in limited release on the West Coast in 2104) are very positive: the plant blooms profusely, the flowers are huge (7.5 cm diameter) and each lasts 2 months! However, it will take a few years before gardeners can really be sure about its longevity and hardiness.
So, raring to go? This plant is being distributed to garden centers across the United States and Europe. In Canada, that’s not so sure, but at least Canadians can order it by mail from Phoenix Perennials in British Columbia.
If you try one of these echibeckias, I would love to have your input… especially next spring, after a cold winter, as gardeners really need a better idea of its hardiness. If you have any information to share, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.