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COREOPSIS: Making a Big Bang!

For the past decade, 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 alone, our catalog includes seven exciting, new introductions from this breeding program. They include the following:

  • Coreopsis x 'Sun Splash'  (Big Bang™ Series)
  • Coreopsis x 'Starbright'  (Li'l Bang™ Series)
  • Coreopsis x 'Starstruck'  (Li'l Bang™ Series)
  • Coreopsis x 'Peach Sparkle'  (Satin & Lace™ Series)
  • Coreopsis x 'Razzle Dazzle'   (Satin & Lace™ Series)
  • Coreopsis x 'Red Tapestry'   (Satin & Lace™ Series)
  • Coreopsis x 'Shades of Rosé'  (Permathread™ Series)
The Satin & Lace™ series has more than doubled in size with the addition of 3 varieties shown above to the existing C. x 'Red Chiffon' and 'Berry Chiffon'. The 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.

The two new additions to the Li'l Bang Series bring ivory and pink tones to this lovely, compact series that is perfect for the front of the border. The latest addition to the Big Bang™ series brings a splash of bright red and gold flowers to the ever-popular and oldest of our Coreopsis series. Last but certainly not least is the 2nd addition to the Permathread™ series. 'Shades of Rosé' features pale pink to dark rose tones adding a nice pastel variety to the Permathread™ series with its tighter, more clumping habit. Permathread™ varieties are perfect accent plants with their tighter, more clumping habit.  

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.