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Sparkling new, hardier coreopsis

Coreopsis-270508-LK700 New perennial coreopsis seem to be popping up everywhere and here are some more – twenty five more from the cross-pollinating paintbrush of Darrell Probst, famous for his epimediums. Click on the picture to see a large image. His new Big Bang Series is included here… What an amazing collection!

Of course, as many gardeners have discovered, “perennial” is a relative term when it comes to coreopsis. The more unusual colours are derived from annual varieties which bring a short life as well as new colours so varieties like ‘Autumn Blush’ and ‘Limerock Ruby’ tend to give one summer of colour and no more in many gardens. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, prolific summer container plants are invaluable, we just need to know.

The Big Bang Series, though, is bred to be hardy in zone 5; it’s now being tested in zone 4. CoreopsisFullMoonCNB500 The first to be introduced, ‘Full Moon’, with 3in/7.5cm flowers in clear pale yellow, is now available by mail order in the US. Expect ‘Redshift’ to be available before too long, its 2in/5cm flowers open creamy yellow with a red ring around the eye and in cooler weather the red colouring becomes more dominant.

CoreopsisRedShiftWalters500 Also on the way is ‘Sienna Sunset’, a sport of the popular ‘Crème Brûlée’ in an unusual burnt sienna shade.

Also new is ‘Lightning Flash’, a form of C. tripteris, with bright yellow foliage and yellow flowers - though at 6ft/2m tall it’s a rather a different creature from most coreopsis; it should be a dramatic back-of-the-border plant. It should be available in the US soon, and later in the UK. ‘Curiosité Chartreuse’, from Europe, looks similar to ‘Lightning Flash’ but its appearance in nurseries is a little more distant. However, Beth Chatto had a similar yellow-leaved form which has been around in Europe for about ten years but never appeared in nurseries. All three are probably the same.

But as more and more of these coreopsis appear on the market - some tough as nails, some more like annuals for summer containers - we need breeders and nurseries to be open and realistic about the hardiness of these plants. It’s not that we won’t grow those that are less hardy, we just need to know so that we can grow them in an appropriate way and our expectations are not dashed.


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Mark Denee

I certainly hope they will be "hardier". So far, I've been disappointed by most of the "new" Coreopsis in recent years (e.g. 'Autumn Blush', 'Pinwheel', etc.).

Here's to Darrell et al doing some appropriate testing and trialling before releasing.

The collage of pics is very cool though!

Graham Rice

I don't think the problem is that they're not hardy, it's the pretence by some in the industry that they are. They're superb in large summer containers, for example, and no one expects most summer container plants to last the winter. They're good plants - used in the right way. Breeders and nurseries just need to be more open with their customers

Mark Denee

The problem is that some propagators are introducing new plants with "very hopeful" hardiness zones (i.e. with little testing and trialling).

Don't tell me it's hardy to zone 5 when in reality it's hardy to zone 7. I've always been a big proponent of the zones being useful "guidelines" only, but that has certainly been abused in the past.

The bottom line IMHO: more testing and trialling before releasing.

Graham Rice

I agree entirely. The problem is that the whole new plant field has become so competitive that there's a tendency to cut corners and rush new plants out prematurely.

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