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?



The English Daisy Lawn

Bellis_perennis_Marburg_02Daisies? I have always liked them. They are easy going and companionable in the garden. They are not fancy. They are sunny and friendly. A bunch of daisies relaxing in a vase is a sure sign of summer in my zone. They are sturdy plants, meaning they are willing growers and easy to care for. The daisy/aster family is a large one, comprising more than 20,000 species. Simple, single flowered and obliging-this describes most daisies. A well grown stand of  shasta daisies is stunning in bloom. But my favorite daisies are those that tend to the weedy side. My most favorite daisy?  Bellis. As in bellis perennis.  That English daisy that is scrappy enough to thrive in a lawn, providing you garden in a zone where the summers are on the cool side.

English daisiesThe broad leaved foliage forms a tuft that hugs the ground. That they thrive in a lawn can be good or bad, depending on your definition of a lawn. The informal and casual entrance to a lakefront neighborhood near me is covered with white bellis blooming in the spring. There are some trees, a sign, and the English daisy lawn. The conditions must suit them perfectly, as it appears the only maintenance is an occasional mowing. Another neighborhood entrance a good hour away features a few trees, a bell tower, a sign, and a bellis lawn. Though our summers are anything but moderate, these two patches thrive.

William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_Daisies_(1894)I make a point to go and look at the daisy fields at least once in the spring, as I would have one if I could. The bellis in my yard is not nearly so robust. The grow for me, begrudgingly. I am likely to grow them in pots until they are done blooming.  Then I set them out in a different spot in my garden, hoping to eventually find a place they will like. This painting by the 19th century painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, entitled “Daisies” tells more than one sweet story. It had me thinking about how I might get an English daisy lawn.

painting the shop floor (1)Detroit Garden Works has been closed since January 15. We routinely clean and repaint. This year we needed repairs to our roof, and some of our outside walls needed to be rebuilt. We had water coming through some damaged concrete block, and in to the building. That water greatly damaged the painting on the floor.  Once the repairs to the building were done, it was time to repaint that floor. You can see the gray spots where the paint had lifted off the floor. Dan took great care to isolate the room from our furry population. Milo, Howard, Ollie, Gary and most of all MCat would be obsessed about getting in that room. Once the room was secure,Dan laid down a primer coat of paint over the old floor painting.

repainting the floorI rolled the base coat in three different colors, all of them dark. Succeeding layers of paint would be progressively lighter.

painting the shop floor (2)All of the paint applied in the beginning of stage 2 was put down with small wood garden marker, taped to a bamboo stake. This was Buck’s invention. I wanted to be able to paint standing up, as much as possible. I was after a loose textural description of grass.  The border was undercoated with several shades of gray and gray brown, which would become a gravel border.   repainting the shop floor (5)This is the 3rd time I have painted this floor since we opened in 1996.  I probably would have done a new floor painting anyway, as the shop has a 20th anniversary coming up the end of March. It is a very special spring for us. It seems like the perfect time for a floor painting that features a few English daisies in bloom. And just in time. The shop will reopen for 2016 on March 1st.

repainting the shop floor (4)The grassy portion of the painting is just about done. I have looked at it all morning, trying to decide if what is there is enough, or if I need a few finishing touches.

repainting the shop floor (3)The gravel border is comprised of paint drops in various colors. It was impossible to keep my shoes out of it. This part is done and dry. If all goes well this afternoon, there will be daisies in the grass.

English lawn daisiessomething like this.