Dear Echinacea…

A letter to a friend:  

Dear Echinacea,

I’m writing to say I’m sorry. OK? I’m sorry! I’m begging you please. I’m on my knees and I’m asking you to forgive me.   I have said mean things about you.

Well, not you, actually….  ???????????????????????????????

You understand that, right? I’ve always liked you. I wasn’t saying those things about you, yourself. I didn’t mean it to be personal. It’s your popularity which got my goat.  I had a negative reaction to your wild popularity and I internalized it. OK? Do you understand that? I’m that kind of guy. I have always rejected the popular thing. You became ‘The Thing’ and I thought there must be something wrong with you.  Echinacea02

But the other day I saw something which changed my perspective. I watched this beautiful butterfly land on you and enjoy your delectable nectar.  ???????????????????????????????

Then I watched as the butterfly flew around the garden, sniffing at all the other flowers, only to come back and land on YOU.  ???????????????????????????????

It hit me. The butterflies love you!  ???????????????????????????????

They always come to you first.  ???????????????????????????????

And the bees….  ???????????????????????????????

Oh My! I saw seven bumblebees on one small patch of you the other day. They aren’t eating any of the other flowers. Only you!  ???????????????????????????????

That’s when I realized I need to say “I’m sorry.” I need to forget about all the public institutions who plant you everywhere. I must forgive the landscaping companies who like you mostly for your ultra dependableness. I should be kind toward the gardeners who just do the popular thing.  I now appreciate that what matters is how much the BUGS LOVE YOU. The bees and the butterflies speak through their actions and they proclaim your glory loudly and clearly. You are cool. You are delicious. You really are The Thing.  ???????????????????????????????

So, I’ll say it one more time: I’m sorry.

Now, that said – and being the kind of guy who likes to take credit where credit is due – I would like to point out to you just how good I have been to you. I would like you to remember that you were featured in our gardens long before you became the dominant landscaping tool for colleges, libraries and hospitals.  ???????????????????????????????

And I hope you appreciate your remarkable placement in the gardens. I mean, come on dude!  You are front and center in Mary’s garden.  ???????????????????????????????

And you are playing a critical ensemble role in the stump garden.  ???????????????????????????????

And even where the show is about other plants, you have a front row seat.  Echinacea12

It’s a good year in the garden, what with all the rain and temperate weather, and you are right there in the thick of it, enjoying the summer with your friends.  Echinacea13

I hope you appreciate that. I hope you accept my apologies and look around and realize how much fun it is here. Here! Forget the million other places where they idolize you. I hope you are having a good summer in this garden.  ???????????????????????????????

Oh, one last thing. As long as we’re both feeling the love now, I would like to compliment you on your remarkable ability to stand tall without any assistance. You know I have a soft spot for Gloriosa Daisy, but honestly, between you and me (don’t tell him I said this), your stems are sturdier. You can stand tall without any staking and we all know how much assistance he needs. I really appreciate that quality in you.  ???????????????????????????????

That’s it, my friend. I feel much better know. I hope you do as well.

Have a wonderful day Echinacea, my tried and true garden companion. Keep up the good work.



48 thoughts on “Dear Echinacea…

  1. Wonderful, as always. It took me years to really appreciate coneflowers. I could value their botanical properties as a part of a pharmacopoeia and a food source for wildlife (also, free rides for gold finches.). But, like rudbeckia, they simply didn’t do it for me. Then, I would see them clustered around mailboxes and gate posts together–coneflowers and black eyes susans–and it was like watching country women in their Sunday hats clustering together after church to exchange news. It was a part of the south and of Country life that I never really saw until I moved away.

    1. What a great comment. Thanks. Women in their hats, clustering together after church – a fine vision. Thanks for putting it in my head. It’s amazing what a change of perspective can do, eh?

  2. Lovely conefloers! They are beautiful in their own way and very special. Really in love with the butterflies and bess you captured.
    Another beautiful post, Thank you, Jim!

    1. Thanks. I thank you. The coneflowers thank you. The butterflies and the bees thank you. Have a great day Amy! 🙂

  3. Que de butineurs dans ce magnifique massif fleuri ! Je suis sûre qu’il y a de beaux bouquets en perspective 🙂 Et en plus de tes nombreuses qualités, tu sais parler aux fleurs … Merci pour ces belles photos et cette simplicité joyeuse et réconfortante

    1. Merci. Je serais sage si je ne partage pas cette qualité particulière. L’Internet peut me croire étrange. Mais je vis “In Jim’s Garden, where plants are people too.” 🙂 Bonne journee, Christiane. 🙂

        1. Of course you do! You have such a beautiful, happy garden, I assumed that it was your friend. Nous devons parler avec nos amis. L’internet penser nous deux étrange, mais nous avons de belles fleurs et le jardin heureux. 🙂

    1. The birds, the butterflies, the bees. I love feeding them. The deer, well…. I like feeding them too but I don’t particularly adore when they tramp through our flower beds, eating the little plants. But now that I have zinnias blooming all around, they seem to be staying away. It’s strange. They eat the zinnias before they put on a bud but once in flower, they seem to be repelled. Don’t like the smell of the flower, I guess. But boy-howdy, they sure did munch a lot of sunflowers before the zinnias came on. It’s an issue. Always an issue. 🙂 Have a great day Julie.

    1. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. I agree, they must be delicious! On which count, I must note that the tremendous popularity of the coneflower is a great thing, providing so much fine fare upon which the bugs may dine. Do you see a lot of this flower in your travels?

      1. Yeah, I saw lots of them especially in public gardens, or maintained parks and so on. People must also like them for their fabulous colours ! 🙂

        When I was little, my grandfather had lots of them in the garden and it was quite easy to disseminate the seeds and make more and more flowers 🙂 So, it is a must have in a garden for plenty of reasons 😀

          1. He really enjoyed flowers, that is true ! He was growing them and giving them at his neighbours all the time because he had too many. It was a hobby for him 🙂

    1. Hi. Thanks. This year we have many bumblebees and a reasonable number of butterflies, though it feels like fewer than the last couple years. Hummingbirds have finally returned, dive-bombing each other in competition for the cannas and zinnias. But I have not seen many honeybees. Clearly I need to implement the plan to make houses and ‘keep bees’ next year. That was the plan for this year, but sometimes the plan is not implemented. 🙂

  4. I first found your blog when I was spring cleaning and had to google “what do coneflower shoots look like?” Your blog had a picture, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it ever since. (I knew it was the perfect blog for me when Mary started talking about the Kentucky Derby. ( : )

    1. Great. I’m glad you like it. I thank you most sincerely for reading. Our garden critters would never allow the Kentucky Derby to go unnoticed. Oh no. They have their priorities. 🙂

    1. Thanks. It was fun to write. The flowers do present themselves well for photos and I really appreciate that quality in them. 🙂

  5. I agree there are quite a few plants that are so durable and reliable they suffer from overexposure. I used to seek out the real weirdos just because of that. But the old reliables “work” and the pretty bugs really do like the coneflowers. I discovered by experimenting that they grow and bloom in a degree of shade so I’ve added a few more in different colors to my main perennial garden where there is a definite lack of mid-summer color. Gorgeous photos.

    1. Sometimes things are popular with good reason. Sometimes not, of course. But ol’ coneflower deserves it’s popularity. I’m betting mid-summer color is tough with a lot of shade. I moved some of these into a half-shady spot in my mom’s garden. It seems to be working. And here I thought you called your blog “Shady Character” because of who you were, not where you live. 🙂

  6. I resisted planting these because of their popularity, but bought my first one this year. I love the free form they give to my garden and what they do for the bees and butterflies.

    1. I guess you, like me, had to overcome the temptation to not do that which is popular. But you, like me, must surely love having the bees and butterflies around, so hey! Bring on the echinacea! You will find them hardy, sturdy and reliable, I hope. 🙂

  7. What wonderful photos. I liked the ones of the butterflies and bumble bees in particular, because those photos tell so well all that is going on in a garden. I enjoy your writing that accompanies all your photos. Thank you for capturing and sharing nature’s wonderful stories!

    1. Thank you. Thanks for reading and thanks for your generous comment. I do like positive feedback, as it makes it more fun to write when I think someone might get a kick out of it. I’m genuinely glad that you do and I’m glad you feel like you can see what is going on in the garden. It’s a busy joint right about now. Cheers. Have a wonderful day! 🙂

  8. These flowers have grown on me too! I admit I was using them initially as a goldfinch lure. But now I have come to love them for themselves, flashy bonnets and all! Lovely photo -essay!

    1. Thanks. It is curious that you used them as a goldfinch lure. I see the bugs at the coneflowers all the time but never see the goldfinches at them. The birds prefer the sunflowers. Curious! Do you have sunflowers? “Flashy bonnets and all!” What a great way to describe them. Cheers. 🙂

      1. The goldfinches fly in starting mid summer to ‘check out’ the progress of the seed formation on the coneflowers. In the fall I leave the seed heads for them and they reward me with their antics. Once the seed is gone, I fill the feeders with niger seed
        and hope that they will stay the winter. They often do!

  9. Not only are they beautiful and popular with the insects, but they have medicinal qualities too. Enjoyed your photos, Jim, and your remarkable garden. 🙂

    1. Thanks Jet. Yes, they are popular on that front. I confess I have not made a tincture from them, but was thinking about that the other day. I should explore their herbal/medicinal qualities more fully. Have a great day. 🙂

  10. Love love love this JIm!!!!! I have found Echinacea this year…I am obsessed with photographing it…what lovelies they are …so brilliant in color…so perfect in symmetry. I got one shot that has 4 bees in it! Love your post…love Echinacea…:)

    1. Thanks Lorrie. I’m glad you love it. They are quite photogenic, aren’t they? Something about the size, color and symmetry. I’m with you. 🙂

    1. I hope so. It would be terrible if it went around holding a grudge. We just can’t have that type of bad energy in the garden. So hey! I did my part. Now echinacea would do well to forgive me. (It better – I wield a mighty shovel!) 🙂

    1. Ah yes. The big swath of Gloriosa Daisy, now elegantly flopping as it fades beyond peak. It’s a fine vision. Have you seen my post “Now THIS is Summer”? I made a real effort to capture the glorious Gloriosa in that post. Thanks. Have a wonderful day! 🙂

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