Langley Gardening: Daisies keep on flowering with easy colour

It’s not hard to get nine months of flowers out of the daisy family, even if all you have is a couple of containers to plant them in. Many are so happy in well-drained soil that containers are an ideal spot.

Daisy flowers are profuse, long-lasting, and good for cutting. Even their faults are generous ones. They tend to seed around and clumps increase quickly.

Most like sun, but can handle partial shade. Though relaxed about watering most of the year, they do need watering in long, hot summers.

The show begins in March with the yellow flowers of Leopardsbane (Doronicum). Varieties range from 30 centimetres to a metre tall – nice for bees early in the year.

Just a tad later, the very dwarf  double daisies open white, pink, or rosy red pompoms – spectacular the first year, but after that, flowers are smaller. They were bred from Bellis perennis, the lawn daisy that some gardeners loathe and others love.

By mid-spring, the fleabanes (Erigeron) start flowering and continue for ages. They are a huge family of daisies, often with so many narrow petals they can look semi-double. Colours vary from white to pink to various purples. They love good drainage and some happily self-sow in driveways and paver cracks.

By summer, Shasta daisies open their usually white petals with gold centres. Today, Shasta flowers can be double, shaggy, or have quilled or twisted petals. Many dwarfs are now available, and one, ‘Becky,’ opens yellow petals which slowly turn to white. If you deadhead them in July, you’ll get more flowers later.

Echinacea is a daisy that’s become hugely popular. It’s a native North American daisy that had herbal uses as an immune system stimulator, and is still used for that today. It grows best in poor soil, keeping it compact – and it hates to be moved.

Most native species flowered in purple-pink. Newer cultivars have many whites. The variety ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ has red, orange, and yellow flowers. Some newer echinaceas flower from seed the first year.

At summer’s peak, coneflowers (rudbeckias) begin blooming. The newer ones today are developed from the native Black Eyed

Susan that covers the B.C. Interior hills with gold in summer. All propagate so quickly that the main problem is usually stopping them.

These days rudbeckia colours go beyond the blazing ‘Goldsturm’ which is still popular today. ‘Cappuchino’ is bronze-brown, ‘Prairie

Sun’ is gold with pale tips and a green centre, and ‘Cherry Brandy’ is red with a dark cone.

Soon the perennial fall asters flower. Today, most are dwarf and colours are intense purples, rose, pink, and soft white. ‘Purple Dome’ is only 60cm, while ‘Alert’ is only 30cm. As with other daisies, pests aren’t a problem.

Among the tallest popular daisies are Heleniums (Sneeze-weed), rugged metre-tall perennials that like rich soil and moisture, but survive nicely on less.

Flowers are in long-lasting clusters of rich golds, orange reds, and browns. Some are in blends of two or three colours.

I have seen helenium used as an effective divider in a small garden.

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