Colorful plumes for your garden

Plant Select® has announced seven great “winners” for 2010. And thanks to our very enthusiastic Marketing Committee members, we have seven great stories to go along with them. Here’s the first, written by  Shalene Hiller, City of Westminster Horticultural Specialist. She is the designer extraordinaire  for
the Legacy Ridge and The Heritage at Westmoor Golf Courses. Thought there’s a fee to play the courses, you can always stop by the clubhouse to see some of her work (AND pick up a cool beverage at the same time!)

Red Feathers (Echium amoenum) is one of the most interesting perennial introductions in years. It has a very structural, architectural quality to it, with straight flower spikes somewhat resembling our native Liatris punctata, but blooming much earlier in May. I’ve combined the unique russet-red flower spikes and growth habit of Red Feathers with the bright yellow flowers and low spreading habit of Genista lydia. I also have it with a prickly pear cactus variety named ‘Claude Barr Plum’. It’s also a beautiful accent for other, more water loving plants, such as Purple Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria).

The spikes will reach a height of about 14 inches. I’ve never had any blooms lean or flop over unless the plant is actually stepped on (it happens!). It has a tuft of dark green basal foliage that only reaches about 8 inches across. It will rebloom throughout the season if the old flower spikes are removed. Red Feathers has been in one of my gardens at Legacy Ridge Golf Course in Westminster since 2006. While it doesn’t seem to be strongly perennial, it does reseed occasionally, so you may want to leave a couple of spikes of flowers/seeds to mature.

Red Feathers is from the Caucasus Mountains. It will tolerate a wide variety of conditions. I grow it in a heavy clay soil amended with sand and pea gravel. The garden is bordered on one side by a rock wall, one side by a sidewalk and the other by asphalt. Through the summer months it is watered about once a week, otherwise the clock is off and it is watered on an “as needed” basis. I grow it in full sun, but it will tolerate partial shade,  and will also tolerate more water. Red Feathers will be a great addition to your garden!

Here’s what you need to know about Red Feathers (Echium amoenum)
Height: 10-14” inches
Width:  6-8” inches
Blooms: May to frost (if deadheaded)
Sun:   Full sun or part shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to xeric (Little to no irrigation needed once established.)
Hardiness: USDA zones 3-9 (up to 9000’)
Culture: Clay, sandy soil or loam

For more information about the Plant Select® program, visit our website at And be sure to ask your local garden center to carry this and all the Plant Select® winners!

This entry was posted in Award winners, Care and maintenance, Design, Gardening, Public Gardens, water wise. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Colorful plumes for your garden

  1. pat heath says:

    I had hoped to find a place to enter the plant requirements for a specific site in my yard and then have the site give me a list of the plants that might fit those specifications. Do I just not know how to search your site? Or could you possibly please advise me of another site that I might find this?

    Also, I would like to find a site or book where I could view each plant type at its most beautiful AND at its other seasons. Any suggestions on that?

    Your help will be most appreciated!

  2. Pat Hayward says:

    Good question. Our website is not quite that sophisticated, but the next best thing would be to go to the Plant Info/Photo Search area of Here you can download the”Complete Plant Info Spreadsheet.” This is an Excel file of all the plants, including height, width, cultural needs, zone hardiness, bloom time, etc. Once downloaded, you can filter the fields to meet your needs. I hope that helps.
    Regarding a book showing plants at various stages during the year, we’ve attempted to do that as much as possible in our book, Durable Plants for the Garden – a Plant Select Guide. This book covers about 70 plants that were recommended or introduced through our program from 1997-2007.

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