Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When it gets tall

Yet another mix-up

When it gets tall

Another mix-up
Another mix-up

My butterfly weed/flower fiasco comes on the heels of yet another mix-up, one that's been going on for several years. Two years ago I bought a native perennial at Primex, the garden center in Glenside where I could spend my whole paycheck in an hour. It was about two feet high and the tag said Coreopsis tripteris or tall tickseed. It's a very tough plant, full sun, blooms from July through fall and could get 6 feet tall or so. Sounded like just the thing for the back of my vegetable garden. It'll come at a good time, I thought, when the veggies are looking tired, and the picture showed a beautiful yellow, daisy-like flower. Perfect.

That first summer it zoomed to about eight feet and was so rambunctious, I could barely contain it. The flowers were simple and pretty. Nice plant. I transplanted it to the middle of the flower garden in late fall, where it would have more room, and this spring, as part of my reform efforts ... to have a neater garden ... I put three stakes around it and some green garden twine to guide its ascent. It's been so incredibly cooperative. Now about eight feet tall, it's just starting to bloom.

Occasionally when I'd see this plant in someone else's garden, I'd be puzzled to hear them say it wasn't a coreopsis at all, that it was a rudbeckia or black-eyed Susan. But, I'd protest, the eyes aren't black and mine came with a plant tag that said coreopsis. No way! they'd say. The friendly debate has gone on for two years. This spring, at a native plant sale up at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, I found Coreopsis tripteris for sale. I've not seen it since I bought it at Primex. I was thrilled. I bought two, planted them and then noticed that their leaves were different from the one I had. The mystery continued.

The other night at Laurel Hill, I saw my coreopsis from across the lot. I also saw the plant tag: Rudbeckia nitida. Suddenly, it all made sense. The Primex plant was mislabelled as a coreopsis ... It wasn't tall tickseed after all. No big whup.

So now I have a bunch of Rudbeckia nitida and Coreopsis tripteris/tall tickseed. Soon I'll see what the real tall tickseed looks like - when it's a little taller.


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Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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