Something new and exciting, from the Whistling Gardener

If you live in the Northwest and garden then you probably have areas of shade, either partial or total, where you are challenged to find plants that will grow.
Gardening in the shade. Photo credit: Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Nothing says summer to me more than flowering perennials in the missus’s garden. While the spring blooms of the peonies and delphiniums have long faded the summer performers are starting to take center stage.

Two that I always look forward to are black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and cone flowers (Echinacea). Goldstrum is the standard bearer of Rudbeckia but over the years the breeders have introduced many more colorful varieties that have larger flowers but unfortunately are less hardy and should be treated as annuals.

As for cone flowers, purple and white were the two main options for years until the breeders had a break through and we started seeing them in yellows and oranges and red with crazy names like Mac and Cheese and Tomato Soup.

Now the unthinkable has happened. Enter stage right ECHIBECKIA.

That’s right, those crazy guys and gals that work with genetics have managed to cross black eyed Susan with cone flowers (what we call an intergeneric cross) and now we have ECHIBECKIA. (As a side note it would have been fun to listen in on the conversations of naming this plant. “Should we call it Echibeckia or Rudinacea?”)

Anyway, for us gardeners all that matters is that we have something new to plant in our gardens and we all know how we love new stuff.

Echibeckia Summerina is a brand new series that has the appearance and fast growth of Rudbeckia with the hardiness and disease tolerance of Echinacea. Flowers are huge — 3 inches in diameter — and can last two to three months.

They are also sterile which means they don’t need to be dead headed and keep producing more flowers throughout the summer. The plants grow 23-36 inches tall and appear to be sturdy enough to not need staking.

Currently there are three new colors, orange, brown and yellow all of which share some of those colors between them.

Sunnyside is one of the few garden centers that have these in stock this year and supplies are limited so best if you hurry on down if you want to try one or two out.


If you live in the Northwest and garden then you probably have areas of shade, either partial or total, where you are challenged to find plants that will grow.

Large conifers like cedars and firs act like huge umbrellas to intercept the rain from reaching the ground underneath and what little moisture that does reach to soil is sucked up by the massive root systems of these large trees.

Conversely, some of us might have moist boggy areas that are also shaded that need some tweaking to make them more interesting.

Shade gardens can be very soothing and in this class you'll learn all about plants that do well in cool, moist or dry shady places.

Join staff member Trevor Cameron C.P.H. as he introduces you to the best shade loving plants for our NW yards and gardens. This class is FREE! As always, RSVP is appreciated.

Steve Smith of owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at


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