Daisies bring a sunny look to the garden

Daisies bring a sunny look to the garden

Give a child a box of crayons and a piece of paper, and ask for a flower, and you very likely will get a picture of a daisy.

Daisies also hold attraction for poets. Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet of the 14th century, wrote “…of all the floures in the mede, Thanne love I most thise floures white and rede, Swiche as men callen dayses in our toune.”

Daisies are my favourite, too. For me, a daisy is the essence of “flowerness.”

What makes a flower a daisy? The child’s daisy is a circle surrounded by strap-like petals, their bases attached to the circle. To the botanist and gardener, the meaning of “daisy” is not so simple. The botanist explains that the daisy is a composite flower made up of many small, individual florets. Those florets that make up the eye of the daisy have inconspicuous petals.

A different type of floret, the so-called ray florets, skirt the daisy’s eye, and each has one large, outward-pointing petal. The petals you actually see on a daisy flower are those from the ray florets.

WHAT IS A DAISY?

Botanically, all daisies are in the Compositae, or daisy, family. But that family also includes many other plants not commonly called daisies. Lettuce and zinnias, for example.

The daisy family has two subdivisions, one of which is exemplified by the child’s flower drawing, sunflowers, coneflowers and other daisies with “eyes.” For examples of the other subdivision, look closely at a dandelion or chicory flower; in these flowers, all the florets are ray florets, each with a single, large, strap-like petal. There is no eye to these flowers.

The original “daisy” of poetry and literature is the English daisy, Bellis perennis. These squat, cheerful flowers, with yellow discs surrounded by petals in shades from deep-rose to white, originated in the grassy fields of England. Now they are widespread in America, too. Cultivated forms have been bred to have so many rows of petals that their yellow eyes often are hidden. These plants self-sow readily to give seedlings that revert to the “wild” form with a single row of petals, in which case they sometimes are considered weeds as they invade lawns and gardens.

SO MANY FLOWERS WITH “DAISY” IN THEIR NAMES

Nowadays, we gardeners use the word “daisy” to represent many different flowers in the daisy family. In the chrysanthemum genus, for example, there’s the ox-eye daisy (C. leucanthemum), its white petals encircling a clear yellow disc. It’s a familiar roadside plant. This plant, like the English daisy, was a native of Europe, but has firmly established itself in America (many consider it a weed).

Other perennial chrysanthemum daisies include the Nippon daisy (C. nipponicum), also with white petals, and the painted daisy (C. coccineum), whose red, pink or white flowers begin their show in early summer. The high, or giant daisy (C. uliginosum) is aptly named, because its white flowers tower 4 to 7 feet above the ground. The crown, or garland daisy (C. coronarium) is an annual species, with yellow or white flowers atop 3-foot stalks.

The Erigeron genus and the aster genus also have some “daisies;” the former sometimes are called fleabanes, for their alleged ability to drive away fleas, and the latter sometimes are called Michaelmas daisies. Whereas the fleabanes generally bloom in spring and early summer, the asters bloom from late summer into fall. Two representatives of Erigeron that are good garden daisies are the orange daisy (E. aurantiacus) and the seaside, or double-orange daisy (E. glaucus).

The list goes on, including the perennial globe daisy (Globularia trichosantha), a low-growing native of Asia producing a globular, blue flower; the Swan River daisy (Brachycome iberidifolia), a graceful little annual with blue, rose or white flowers; and the blue daisy (Agatheae coelestris), a plant best suited for greenhouse-growing, with sky-blue petals surrounding a yellow eye.

Next spring, I will plant a sweep of pastel landscape with African daisies (Arctotis grandis), whose petals, white skyward over lavender undersides, surround steel-blue centres.

In contrast, individual attention is demanded from each flower of Transvaal daisies (Gerbera jamesonii), which blossom in shades of salmon, pink and apricot in clay pots on my terrace.

A green thumb isn’t required to enjoy daisies. Most are hardy plants, free from pests, and able to tolerate poor, dry soils.

If daisies have captured your fancy, sow seeds of perennial forms now. Sow seeds of annual daisies next spring.

Daisies are adaptable plants that can bring their sunny disposition to the formal garden, cottage garden, meadow or abandoned lot. After all, the name daisy comes from a reference to the sun, “day’s eye.”

___

Lee Reich writes regularly about gardening for The Associated Press. He has authored a number of books, including “The Ever Curious Gardener” and “The Pruning Book.” He blogs at http://www.leereich.com/blog. He can be reached at garden@leereich.com.

Lee Reich, The Associated Press

gardening

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

The influenza vaccine will be available at no cost starting Monday in Alberta. “The more that we can avoid influenza-related tests, emergency visits and hospitalizations, the stronger our system will be to support those with COVID-19 and all other health needs," says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hinshaw urges Albertans to get flu shot as COVID cases jump by 332

Alberta’s central zone now has 132 active COVID-19 cases

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and government house leader Jason Nixon chat before the speech from the throne delivered in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature Tuesday with a plan to discuss up to 20 new bills — many of which are focused on the province’s economic recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

Opposition house leader Heather Sweet said the NDP will focus on holding Premier Jason Kenney

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Most Read