Published Aug 19, 2018 07:21am

GARDENING: GROWING MISS DAISY!

Zahrah Nasir
Photos by the writer

Open-faced, friendly and somehow symbolic of wild freedom, honest-to-goodness daisies dance in gardens, alive with sheer joy.

From the far-from-humble lawn daisy (Bellis perennis) to the rolling swathes of snow-white (Leucanthemum vulgare) swaying in the cool Galiyat breeze, there are daisies to colour everyone’s dreams — and not all of them are white.

Take the ever popular Gerbera for example: commonly known as African daisies or Transvaal daisies. These perennial striking flowers, bring a jewel- bright shine to partly-shaded spots out in the garden proper or in pots on balconies and in verandas. From cherry red to burning orange and shimmering gold through to tangy lemons, toffee pink and luminous white, this daisy species is an absolute gem. What’s more, it is a variety simple to grow from August-sown seed. This month, by the way, is also the usual time to divide up those established, overcrowded Gerbera plants, in the process.

Easy to grow daisies are perfect for beginner gardeners or those whose thumbs are not too green

Then there are those glorious, easy-to- cultivate Rudbeckias in shades of golden- yellow through to reds, bronzes and delicate ambers — found in both single and double forms — and all with entrancing black eyes. Mostly perennials but often treated as annuals in our climate, Rudbeckia seeds can be sown, just beneath the surface of decent compost, right now and until the end of October in the coastal regions and plains and in early spring in cooler, upland areas. Happy in direct sun or partial shade, Rudbeckias — along with their equally charming friend Gaillardia which can also be sown now — are especially stunning when planted amongst dazzling white, medium-height Shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum maximum) in single or double forms. All of the aforementioned are perennials though they are grown as seasonal annuals here. All of these can be started off from seed between July and the end of October, providing that seed trays/seedlings are given adequate protection from monsoon downpours and from direct sun when temperatures are scorchingly high.

Osteospermums are yet another dazzling perennial daisy to be sown now — vigorous, with flowers in rose, pink, white, lilac, red, purple, orange and lemon, all with contrasting dark eyes. These African sun-lovers flourish in poor soil and, once their root systems are well-established, they need only moderate amounts of water. Plus, if they are perfectly at home in their given environment, they merrily self-seed all over the place.

Annual Chrysanthemum varieties such as ‘Giant-flowered mixed’ are the perfect mid to back-of-the-border daisy — reaching about three feet in height. White, pink, rose and red in colour, with a few bicolours popping up in surprise, these feathery foliaged plants have the added advantage of deterring aphids from colonising your garden. They make excellent, long-lasting, cut flowers too — as do many of the other species mentioned above. Seed is generally sown in early autumn in Karachi and throughout the plains and in early spring in hill and mountain resorts in the north.

Not an actual daisy — although single-flowered ones are easily mistaken for them — Calendulas (commonly known as English Marigold) are a daisy’s best friend in that they complement each other to perfection. Calendulas are a well-known flowering herb, their edible flowers not used in the kitchen as much as they should be and are one of the easiest to grow from seed plants in existence. Calendula is Latin for ‘calendar’ and seeds of these attractive flowers can be sown any month of the year and will germinate when growing conditions are right for them which, as it happens, is most of the time. From dwarf varieties, through medium up to tall, these popular annuals have flowers in countless shades of orange, yellow and cream — plus, a rather provocative — shade of pastel pink. They come in single, double, quilted and many other forms.

Other daisy and daisy-like flowers to dot your daisy dream include: Venidium (Cape daisy), Coreopsis, Helenium, chicory, Tanacetium parthenium (Feverfew), Echinacea, Chamomile, Arcotis and Dimorphotheca.

If you can’t find seed locally — do check in the Dawn Sunday advertising supplement. Then search for a Pakistani online seed supplier as it is against the paper’s policy for me to name individual suppliers here.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 19th, 2018

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