Gardening: Getting ready to hit the ground running in spring

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News
Coreopsis grandiflora 'Early Sunrise' -- 
Coreopsis is easy to grow, making it a good choice for beginners. One plant will provide you with long-lasting cut flower bouquets all summer long.

I’ve spent the past several weeks perusing plant catalogs and the internet looking for treasures to add to the Rochester OPC Stone House Garden. This spring I plan to hit the ground running in an area we call “the work in progress garden.”  We’ve spent the past summers removing weeds, overgrown grasses and a huge planting of daylilies. What we really needed was a back hoe. 

I’ve banned daylilies from the gardens because just as they come into bloom the deer obliterate the blossoms.  

One of the family of plants I’m looking to add more of is Coreopsis, a member of the Aster family and a North American native.  

We currently have several varieties of Coreopsis growing in the Stone House garden, gifts of a flower-loving volunteer who hit a fall sale and picked them up for a song.  With little to no care but occasional dead heading and a mid-season shearing, cutting back by a third to a half, they have proven to be hardy for the past four winters and able to withstand the hot dry summers that have become the norm in our patch. The other great news is Coreopsis are deer resistant and attract butterflies and bees.   

If you’ve been gardening for long, you’re probably familiar with these oldies but goodies. You can’t go wrong with them.   

Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’, which reaches 12 to 24 inches in height and produces semi-bright yellow flowers from early summer through fall.  

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moon Beam’ sports beautiful little butter yellow flowers on 12 to 18 inch stems. Their fine airy leaves also add interesting texture.   

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ grows golden yellow flowers on 12 to 18 inch stems and has the reputation of the longest flowering season of the lot.  

Today there are dozens more Coreopsis to choose from. Leafing through the Bluestone Perennials catalog at, (800-852-5243) I counted more than 20 varieties.  

A nice rich red will work well in my garden, so Coreopsis ‘Mercury Rising” from the Big Bang Series hybridized by Darell Probst in central Massachusetts is on my buy list. It’s considered a “must have” according to the commercial growers Walter’s Gardens in Zeeland, Michigan. A top performer in their trial gardens it was also a visitor favorite.   

C. ‘Red Elf’ from Probst’s Li’L Bang series is a smaller version – 8 to 12 inches, with a bun-shaped growth habit that is easily tucked into smaller borders and containers.  

Both produce sterile flowers so deadheading to prevent reseeding is not necessary.  

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.