I think maybe I bought the plant because of the name, Jethro Tull, a name that has been stuck in the head trivia section forever. I probably found out about the real Jethro Tull in a history class when I was in school – long enough to call that historical period of my life. He was the 17th century farmer who perfected horse-drawn seed in the 1700s who modernized the farming of the day. Or maybe it was the 60’s rock band with this name that you probably heard and added to the trivia stack. They’re still around, and ironically, they have a song called “We Live in the Past.” For whatever reason so called, the most current Jethro Tull is a cultivated variety of coreopsis that is now growing well in my garden.
Coreopsis, a common name tickseed, is a plant native to North America. There are over 70 species and one thing they all have in common is their daisylike flowers which are a source of nectar and pollen for all sorts of insects. I don’t have exactly large stretches of this plant that form an eco-friendly niche for specific insects, but the few varieties I have dotted help keep the garden buzzing.
Most coreopsis are shades of yellow, but cultivars may have reddish-purple, even pink tones. I had Coreopsis verticillata ‘Route 66’ for ages. It is a flowering plant that has a burgundy center that spreads on yellow petals. This is vigorous and hardy, not surprising as it is said to have been discovered growing (or joining a ride) near Route 66 in Lucinda, Pa. I also have ‘Zagreb’, just as impressive, but with daisylike yellow flowers in a shorter time, a form of clustering, and another called “Mercury Rising.” It’s also lush and bushy with lovely Merlot color flowers with an orange button in the center.
Somewhere in the garden, there may be a ‘American Dream’ Coreopsis rosea. It is a pink variety and unlike other Coreopsis species, it is not drought tolerant as it needs moist soil to thrive. I’m afraid maybe you didn’t give him what he needed; however, the others are doing well.
Coreopsis verticillata are also known as thread-shaped coreopsis because of the delicate, finely woven leaves, attractive enough in itself. They are one of the longest flowering perennials, easy to grow and a good choice for the beginner. Plant them in a sunny spot, give them a light upholstery in mid-summer and produce even more flowers.
Because bees and butterflies are loved in the same way, and so easy, every garden should have a coreopsis. Don’t worry about the common name tickseed. The plant does not pull the ticks, nor does it pull them away. It is related to the botanical name, Coreopsis, which comes from the Greek words koris meaning bug and opsis, which refers to the shape of the seed resembling a bug or tick.
As for ‘Jethro Tull,’ it was a natural blend between varieties from two other species, C. grandiflora, or large-flowered tickseed found in eastern Canada, and C. auriculata, or ear-core mouse. Auriculatus refers to the ear-like lobes at the bottom of each leaf – I should check Jethro’s leaves for any signs of Mickey. Unlike wire leaf varieties, the leaves are noticeably wider. It is the flowers that are especially attractive. About the size of a toonie, they are bright golden yellow with grooved petals resembling small ice cream cones.
I have to go sit in the garden with one while catching up with an old rock band.