Favorite Perennials: The Daisies

Bellis_perennis_dsc00906It is no accident that the subject of the painted floor at the shop is bellis perennis, or English daisy. Daisies are a favorite perennial plant of mine. Bellis is the original plant to which the name daisy was applied. This daisy spread throughout Europe and eventually made its appearance in North America. The yellow disc like center with a star of radiating petals is characteristic of all daisies. As you can see in this picture from Wikipedia, the flowers are the small yellow structures you can see at the edge of the yellow disk in the picture above. The flowers are surrounded by white bracts, radiating all around. Daisies are a member of the aster family. The word aster comes from the Greek word meaning “star”. The aster family is commonly known as the family of daisies.

oxeye daisiesThe aster family is reputed to make up almost 10% of all flowering plants.  That is a staggering number. Not every member of the aster family looks like a daisy.  Sunflowers and echinacea have that daisy look, but artichokes do not. The English daisy is a lawn weed for some that I greatly admire. In my garden it is charming, and not so much weedy.  Just as weedy is the perennial oxeye daisy. Leucanthemum vulgare acts just very much like its name.  It is a tall rangy grower that will eventually flop over if it does not have support from its neighbors. It is native to every state in the US, and all of Canada.  I would call that willing. This native roadside daisy is prohibited in some states-mostly for agricultural reasons. They can act as a host for viral diseases of crops. Cattle avoid eating them. That said, I have planted them. This loosely configured perennial garden on the lake features the oxeye daisy, as well as chasmathium latifolium in the shadier areas. The taller species asters are still quite short at this time of year. The amsonia “Blue Ice” is short, but scrappy.  The other perennials in this garden were chosen for their ability to withstand the advances of the daisies.

551 from monroviaI love our wild daisy. It is fresh, sunny spirited, and uncomplicated. Should you not require a plant that behaves in an adult like manner in an unmowed meadowy spot, they will persist. They may migrate, but any day with daisies blooming is a good day. It is hard to dislike them, even when they are a nuisance. I do not farm crops or raise cattle, so I do plant oxeye daisies-primarily the cultivar known as “May Queen”. Do not plant an oxeye daisy if you want order in the court.  If introducing a wild daisy with a long agenda to your garden makes you uneasy, the wild shasta daisy, leucanthemum maximum, is a better mannered choice. The first hybrid shasta daisy was bred by Luther Burbank, who spent 15 years crossing various wild daisies, in search of a worthy garden plant. They all feature big white star like flowers with yellow button centers. Not every gardener has the space or patience for wilding daisies.

July 23, 2013 (13)The shasta daisy “Becky” is a sturdy and persistently perennial improvement over the classic tall shasta “Alaska”.  I say improved, as I like the somewhat shorter height of Becky. In this garden, it is entirely companionable with the white tall phlox “David”. They make great cut flowers.  They don’t ask for much in the way of care.  White flowers in the perennial garden provide punctuation to the sentence “This is a garden”.  That white is visible from a great distance. The flowers are not fancy.

 

wayside gardensThis cultivar, chrysanthemum superbum “Real Neat” is available from Wayside Gardens, is a daisy whose breeding has gone over to the fancy side. The best part is that gardeners of all persuasions will be able to find a daisy to their liking.

chrysanthemum sheffield pinkChrysanthemums are in the aster family.  Certain varieties of chrysanthemums have a distinctly daisy-like appearance.  This variety, Sheffield Pink, is the latest perennial to bloom on my block. It was planted underneath a tree in my neighbor’s yard.  The tree died a few years ago, but this daisy mum still comes back and blooms in October, just like it has for at least 15 years.

October 29 2015 080Sheffield Pink is not only hardy, it is persistent. I do not see that it gets any special care, but for the fact that my neighbor mows carefully around it. It gets water from the sky, or maybe the hose on occasion. I never see any evidence of disease or ill health. Many daisies are like this.  Given a good start, a well grown stand of daisies is sure to come.

daisiesThis poster via Wikipedia illustrates the great range of flower forms and colors in the aster family. No matter the particulars, daisies thrive with a minimum of care and fuss, providing they are sited in decent soil, with reasonable water, good drainage, and in full sun.

photo by Jack DykingaThe persistence of the daisy could be no better evidenced than in this stunning photograph taken by Jack Dykinga recently in Death Valley. An El Nino that brought rare fall rains to the desert has resulted in a Death Valley super bloom.  Thousands of dormant seeds of geraea canescens, or desert gold plant, germinated following the rains. This annual daisy-like flowering plant is a member of the aster family, and is sometimes known as the desert sunflower. The article about the Death Valley super bloom is beautifully documented on the National Geographic website.    Death Valley Super Bloom

photo by Jack DykingaThere are few flowers as buoyant, sunny natured, and persistent as a daisy.  See what I mean?

 

 

Opening Day

detroit Garden WorksIt was the middle of January that we began repairing and repainting Detroit Garden Works. It was a long process which got finished just two weeks ago. The building dates back to 1940, so with age comes some maintenance. We had issues with the roof, and some deteriorated sections of our concrete block wall that needed repair. We repainted the entire shop, one room at a time. This meant that every room had to be cleared, the loose paint scraped, and the new paint applied-all by hand. The walls are now a warm white, and the trim is a pale blue gray that reminds me of galvanized metal. This day, Owen and LaBelle were rehanging the strings of lights attached to the steel beam that holds the glass roof aloft in our greenhouse. Those pale gray roof rafters look so good against the sky.

February 28, 2016 045Many weeks later, the room is filled with racks full of Danish designed terra cotta pots manufactured in Italy that Rob ordered last fall. Buck’s group from Branch came to reinforce a pair of large vintage wood shelving units that Rob bought in Atlanta, so they could handle the weight of over 500 of these great looking pots. Once the pots were in place, Owen and LaBelle hung a collection of Plant Belles topiary forms from the roof rafters. We began repopulating the shop for spring.

ready for spring (17)Looking through these vintage wirework cloches, you can see that our greenhouse space is filling up. The empty tables will see service in just a few weeks. The weekend of March 20th is our annual hellebore festival. This greenhouse will be filled will hellebores, topiaries, and other spring plants in just a few weeks. What any gardener wants to see the most as winter comes to a close is plants, and lots of them. We agree.

opening day (7)We potted up lots of heirloom daffodils this past fall. Detroit Garden Works will be celebrating their 20th year in business the end of March. We have the idea that this space will be beautiful, filled with daffodils blooming for our 20th. We just brought all of the pots and baskets out of our unheated garage for a warm up to 50 degrees.

opening day (11)Our 20th year in business is a big occasion for all of us. First and foremost it speaks to Rob’s collections that have kept every shop season for 20 years fresh and captivating. His talent and passion for the garden is truly extraordinary. Every object that has a home in our 10,000 square feet of space, both on the ground, in the air, and on the walls was an ornament or tool for the garden chosen by him.

opening day (10)The shop has an incredible collection of ornament for the garden. Pots we have. Antique, vintage, modern, contemporary-the range is wide. Rob favors the handmade, the unusual, and most of all, beautiful pots.  Homes for plants as in baskets, urns, vases and buckets – made of terra cotta, galvanized metal, wood, stone – even paper. What we have available is much wider in range and depth than this list.

opening day (8)Our tool room features an extensive collection of handmade Dutch tools.  They are beautifully made, and sharp as blazes.  Rob’s choice of handmade corn brooms and whisks with cherry wood handles are handsome indeed.

opening day (9)Sunne and I displayed a lot of our new Dutch hand tools in glass cubes. Why so?  These tools are very sharp. They will make quick work of any small digging project. We thought to make the view of every tool easy. The glass will inspire caution to anyone who wants to pick one up and look it over.

opening day (17)This past fall, Detroit Garden Works had a group of Italian made washable paper bags in stock. I thought to load up the bags with daffodils and miniature bulbs. The zip lock bags made a perfect liner for the paper jardinieres. Though it was convenient that the bulbs did not need any water over the course of the winter, I was worried that plastic would keep the soil too wet. Not so. The roots look healthy, and I see no signs of rot.

opening day (6)Once they had been moved into greenhouse, we cut down the top of the plastic so it was no longer visible. It only took 2 days exposure to natural light for the leaves to green up.

opening day (19)The room with the painted floor is just about ready for company. The most dramatic feature of the space is how Rob did the lighting.  He took every light down, and redid them in such a way that features that floor, the collection of Italian terracotta that just arrived, and of course the galvanized buckets and baskets that are his idea of a gardening staple.

opening day (4)The Italian pots are all simple in shape, and have no decoration but for a rolled rim at the top. They would look as beautiful in contemporary gardens as they would in traditional ones. I have so many requests from readers far away to post pictures of the inside of the shop, so what is to follow should give you a good idea of the big picture.

opening day (2)the daisy lawn room

opening day (5)from back to front

opening day (3)in the window

opening day (1)vintage steel desk and wall hung cubby

opening day (18)looking towards the front door

opening day (16)from south to north

opening day (15)Belgian bowl pots

opening day (12) pair of fire escape wall wall mounted plant stands

opening day (13)This was always our darkest space. The new paint, and the white French glazed terracotta has made the room so much more inviting.  Inviting-that’s what we want to be, this opening day.

 

Some Details On The Floor

outfitting the roomThe first order of business is to thank each and every one of you who took the time to write a comment on my post about the finish of the floor. It was an extravaganza of a day for me! I had no idea so many of  your comments were forthcoming, but how I loved them. All that good will was rocket fuel for my day. Again, thank you. All of your energy and enthusiasm was the talk of my entire staff.  I did want to address some of the questions posed in some of the comments.

furnishing the room (6)As for the possibility of painting this rug on canvas – I would not have considered that. This space may not look very big, but it is. I am guessing at least 25 by 40 feet.  No canvas comes this size; it would have to be pieced, and sewn together. This room is the Detroit Garden Works railway station. It is our most highly trafficked space. People bring wet plants and bags of soil with holes in the bags to the counter. Carts get wheeled through here. Sometimes we need a pallet jack in this room.  Kids drop the remains of their ice cream cones on the floor. The dogs drag in everything from outside. On a rainy day, everyone coming in has a mix of mud and gravel on the bottoms of their shoes.  A canvas rug in a retail setting is a trip worry, if the edges do not lay perfectly flat. This is not a good place for a floor canvas. This floor painting is firmly glued down, and can be washed.

furnishing the room (5)All of the daisies have a yellow center.  I think our track lighting washed out the yellow in my pictures. I did paint the rug with semi gloss finish, as it is so durable. We do have a glare coming off the floor both from those lights, and the paint. The yellow reads loud and clear, if you are in the room. The yellow was an essential element.  Bellis have yellow centers.

furnishing the room (9)It is a pleasure that this painted rug will get a lot of use. I like things for the garden that go on to last long enough to look worn. If this painting wears to the point of no return, it just means I will have a chance to paint a floor another time.  This is the 3rd painting in 20 years.  I wonder how I might repaint this floor when I am 72. Maybe when I am 70, I will simply be ready for a change. I was in a commercial building last week whose lobby was filled with potted poinsettias. Though they had had perfect care, and looked wonderful, their time had passed. I will not put a sealer coat over the painting. It will just have to endure, as best it can. Should it ever need replacing, I will paint again. I am not thinking of the future now. What is there now is enough.

furnishing the room (7) What Rob has placed on the painted floor tells me he likes it. No big things sit flat on the floor, obscuring the paint. Everything sitting on the floor in this room has legs.

furnishing the room (8)Painting this floor was 9 days well spent. February is a bleak month in Michigan.  I scarcely thought about the cold and gray.

Detroit Garden Works 2016This room is starting to come together.  MCat, that dark blob in the back center of this picture, has walked across this floor as many times as all the rest of us have the past few days. It will be great fun next week to have people come in and see it in person.

Detroit Garden Works 2016Again, my thanks to all of you for taking the time to write. And I promise, no more posts about this floor.

The Finished Floor

the shop floor (6)I did fine tune that painted grass rug day before yesterday. The paint stick that Buck made for me made that grassy style painting possible.  The bamboo has a lot of flex. All I needed to do was stand up, dip my stick into the paint that had been thinned to a loopy consistency, and vibrate. It went on for days, but it was fun. Absorbing. This is a perfect winter project. Not so much thinking, just my eyes following my hands. A pair of hands working is a big fluid situation, all to the good.

the shop floor (5)Rob got up on the ladder to take this picture. Not that anyone will ever see this floor at this stage, from such a perch.  I was just interested to see if my plan for consistent texture with color that was shifting was working. The shop lights are glaring off this semi-gloss paint, but I was happy with what I was seeing. By the way, if you ever have any paint project inside or out that requires fine quality paint, I highly recommend Porter Paint.  It is a paint favored by sign painters. It is the only paint I ever use, inside or out.

the shop floor (8)This room in the shop gets a terrific amount of traffic. The effort it will take to finish it up is the most I will even see of it. Right now, the rug is prominent, as there is not much else to look at. By the end of this week, it will be filled up with whatever Rob has in mind.  This floor will become part of a bigger scene.

the shop floor (3)For me, the marvel of the outcome belongs to the tools. A bamboo stake, a wood plant marker, and a sharpened orchid stake made all of this happen. All I supplied was some energy.

the shop floor (4)To follow are a lot of pictures, and not so much commentary. When I am painting, I am not talking or writing. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

the shop floor (7)The dogs could not wait to get in to room that Dan had roped off. Dogs hate being excluded from any event.  Howard was barely in the room before he laid down, and started licking the floor. Interpret that however you wish.  I think he thought the project tasted good.  Me too.

the shop floor (20)I have spent the last 2 days painting my representation of English lawn daisies over top of the grass painting.  It took a while to get the hang of how to paint those bellis flowers.  Suffice it to say that I painted with a sharp stick, in a certain pattern.  It took the better part of two hours to get comfortable and expressive. Not much news in this regard.  Any project asks for a go ahead. I went ahead. After the go ahead, a great idea can take hold. Establishing a rhythm takes some time. It took a while, but I finally managed to let my tools take the lead.  If you are a gardener, you understand this. The tools, lead by a pair of hands, can make a garden.

the shop floor (15)a painted English daisy lawn

the shop floor (18)midway

the shop floor (16)close to the floor

the shop floor (13)Rob took this picture from the top of a ladder.  OK, I think I am done painting the daisies.

the shop floor (19)My daisies are geometric and regular, against a field of green swirls. Did I know this this the beginning? The swirls versus the geometry?   No. Every project evolves.

the shop floor (1)Detroit Garden Works reopens for the 2016 gardening season next Tuesday. March 1. If you are local to us, feel free to check out the floor. That said, we have so much more going on besides this floor. I promise that your visit, from the floor up, will be an especially beautiful celebration of the garden.

daisies on the floorWe have English lawn daisies blooming.