What goes around comes around. In the spring of 2015, two brothers in Wyoming found a fully articulated fossil of a primitive horse ancestor, since nicknamed “Olive.” Horses evolved in America before crossing over to Asia and becoming extinct here, until Spanish explorers brought them back to America.
So it was a bit of a homecoming for the horse when the Cheyenne tribe in Minnesota abandoned their earth lodges and moved into portable teepees, because with horses, the Cheyenne could easily hunt buffalo and follow the herds over hundreds of miles on the plains.
Taking something that has always been there and re-creating it is part of gardening. The humble native coneflower, Echinacea, has been bred into a colorful, ever-blooming flower called Cheyenne Spirit.
This hardy perennial will bloom the first year from seed. The stunning mix of colors goes far beyond purple to include fire-engine red, orange, yellow, cream and white flowers. These are well-branched plants growing up to three feet tall that bloom with three- to four-inch flowers that are equally at home in the landscape or as cut flowers in a vase.
Cheyenne Spirit coneflowers are quite adaptable and seem to grow well in both dry and moist locations. As a drought-tolerant flower, it is an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. It grows well without regard to soil type or pH, and is even very tolerant of urban pollution. The plants are sturdy and do not need staking.
Cheyenne Spirit coneflowers attract beneficial pollinators and are an excellent food source for bees. They will come back for years and are hardy in USDA Zones 3–8.
You can start seeds indoors or sow them directly into the garden. For better germination, place Cheyenne Spirit seeds in the refrigerator for two to three weeks before planting. Plant the seeds in spring after the soil has warmed. They grow best in full sun but will also tolerate light shade. Plant three to four seeds, one-eighth-inch deep. Seeds will germinate in 10 to 15 days. Later, thin to one plant every 18 inches.
For fresh flowers, cut the flowers when the petals are expanding. If you want to save the dried seed cone for everlasting displays, let the cone dry on the plant until it has turned golden brown. Leave several seed heads for winter interest in the garden and to feed the songbirds.
Cheyenne Spirit is ideal for growing along driveways, in flowerbeds and borders, or planted in masses for a spectacular, bee-friendly landscape. Each plant can live up to 10 years.
These are low-maintenance plants. You can clean up the flowerbeds in early spring before growth resumes. Coneflowers not only attract butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds to your yard, but also are not very attractive to deer, which tend to leave them undamaged.
Plant Cheyenne Spirit coneflowers, and within months you will have psychedelic colors of red, yellow and all shades in between. Think of it as a new variation on an old reliable friend. Like the Cheyenne bringing the horse back to the plains after millions of years.