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COREOPSIS: Making a Big Bang!

It’s not often that one gets to play a part in the beginning of something new and exciting, but that’s where we find ourselves with the genus Coreopsis.

For almost a decade now, we’ve worked in conjunction with our friend and renowned breeder, Darrell Probst, introducing many new, exciting Coreopsis hybrids to the market. The seeds of this relationship were sown in the mid-1990’s when Pierre shared divisions of some of his unique Epimediums with Darrell. Soon after the two took part in an expedition of 11 Americans to remote areas of southwest China.

A decade went by before Marc would visit Darrell’s nursery in central Massachusetts with friends Luc Klinkhammer from Holland and John Walters from Walters Gardens in Michigan. It was the end of the growing season and the Coreopsis hybrids were in full bloom. We know a good thing when we see it and secured the first plants of what would eventually launch Darrell’s Big BangTM series of Coreopsis to trial here at Sunny Border.

Thus began the annual trek up to visit Darrell’s seedling fields to make selections of seedlings to trial, now referred to as "The Coreopsis Summit." In addition to Sunny Border, the group has grown to include representatives from Walters Gardens, Zeeland, MI; Pioneer Gardens, Deerfield, MA; Skagit Gardens, Mount Vernon, WA and James Greenhouses, Colbert, GA. Together we choose between 50 to 100 of the best seedlings to trial each year. Shortly after the Summit selections are documented and cuttings from each selection are sent out to each participant for them to trial in their own climate.

Selections are evaluated for at least two years with participants comparing notes at the Summit each year. Here at Sunny Border, we pot up 24 gallons of each selection and trial them for at least two years, testing their pot performance, length of bloom, winter hardiness and more. It takes a great plant to thrive in the wet of the Pacific Northwest as well as the heat of the south and the extremes of the Midwest and New England. Only the highest rated selections have a chance at making it through to introduction.

This year, our catalog includes two exciting introductions from the new Satin & LaceTM series: 'Red Chiffon' and 'Berry Chiffon' as well as a new addition to the Big Bang™ series called ‘Radioactive’. The Satin & Lace series gets its name from its lacy, dark green foliage that has a satin finish but it doesn't stop there. Large flowers with vibrant high contrast color cover the plant all season, lasting twice as long as other varieties that have been “cruizing” the market. ‘Radioactive’ lives up to its name as well, bursting with vibrant colored red flowers that are brushed with orange (a sport of the ever popular ‘Mercury Rising').

It is important to note that all of Darrell's Coreopsis have resulted from over 15 years of intense breeding incorporating nearly 20 species and are sterile, giving them longevity of bloom, along with exceptional disease resistance. At this point, it's hard to imagine Darrell can top all the great introductions to date but we're guessing the "Sky's the Limit" with this outstanding breeding program.