I don't know about you but I have a very soft spot in my heart for daisies. So this column is about singing the praises of three daisy plants and my attempts to get you to plant even more of these delightful flowers. To begin with, there are literally hundreds of plants in this rather large family and while you won't grow them all, you might want to consider these three.
Shasta unknown variety
The most-popular and deservedly so is the Shasta daisy. This plant is hardy most years in our regional gardens and if you tend to lose it, my guess is you have too much clay in your soil.
It loves a good soil and will do best in well-drained soils that are high in organic matter in a sun to part sun location. It will survive better in a sandier soil than clay and even if you have pretty-much garbage soil, you'll be able to grow this plant.
This plant comes in a wide variety of flower sizes and shapes and plant heights to suit all garden conditions.
The most commonly available variety is 'Alaska' and at 3-feet tall with 3-inch wide pure white flowers with a yellow centre, this plant deserves its reputation as one of the best plants in the family.
'Becky' was the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2003 and at 24-30 inches tall it is one of the heaviest and longest blooming plants in the garden.
A recent introduction 'Brightside' is being sold as an improved 'Becky' and I'm looking forward to having it in my garden.
If you like weird plants, you might like 'Crazy Daisy' where no two blossoms are the same even though most are semi-double.
'Esther Reed' was the first double blooming Shasta and continues to be a good seller today.
'White Princess' is a semi-dwarf only reaching 12-18 inches tall but it too blooms for an extended time.
And if you're looking for another colour than white, you now have a choice with 'Sonnenschein' or 'Sunshine' which is a very soft yellow.
I note that almost all daisies benefit from being deadheaded and if the spent blooms are removed, you'll find they will produce new buds. If the flowers are allowed to set seed on the plant, flower production will taper off after those blooms have set seed.
Gaillardia or Blanketflower
Another daisy that I'm falling in love with is Gaillardia or blanketflower. This charmer gives me the red and orange range that the Shasta daisies lack. I've grown a bunch of these over the years and I have several thoughts.
The first is that they start blooming somewhere around mid-July in my garden and run right through to mid-September. This is a good long bloomtime and this gets them the key to my garden.
The problem with them is that the mother plants are short-lived and if you get 2 or 3 years out of them, you're doing very well. Most of the time, they'll set seed and produce new plants in this way. For example, I had four plants of 'Fanfare' last year and this year I have three.
Because I run a deep mulch on my garden, the seeds can't get established so I do have to consciously decide to replace them every year or two. The problem with this is deciding which to pick.
'Dazzler' is an old-fashioned plant that stands 18-inches tall and has maroon-red petals with yellow ends surrounding a darker burgundy-brown center. It is literally covered with blooms for the end of the gardening season.
'Goblin' is a shorter version of 'Dazzler' and is great in containers for a late-season splurge of wild color.
'Arizona Sun' is a multiple award winner and it's 3-inch wide blooms stand out in any garden. This is a superb plant and I've grown it several times in my gardens. Like Shasta daisies,
Gaillardia breeders have produced a yellow but this yellow 'The Sun' is bright and bouncy.
Coreopsis 'Jethro Tull'
And last but not least, the third must-have daisy is the Coreopsis family of plants.
These sun or part shade growers are another of the long-season bloomers and if you're looking for plants for garden or containers, you really don't want to pass these by. One of the major production nurseries lists 17 different varieties to drool over.
The Queen of these plants is the thread-leaved Coreopsis or C. verticillata and the most popular plant here is 'Moonbeam'.
This plant starts late in my garden but explodes into bloom by the end of June, a state it holds right up to frost.
I've found that, contrary to some belief, it doesn't bloom well as a drought-resistant plant but give it adequate water and watch it go.
American Dreams' is C. rosea and is pink. I've grown this plant but it didn't like being moved two years in a row so I lost it. I'm going to get it again because this plant was Plant of the Year in the Netherlands in 1993 and is a good garden performer.
'Zagreb' is a bright yellow and while 'Moonbeam' has a soft voice in the garden, this plant sings loudly.
The Coreopsis lanceolata varieties are usually seed grown and these have never been as hardy or as long-lived for me as the C. verticillata hybrids. I've stopped growing them as perennials and treat them more like the heavy flowering annuals they act like for me. Although I might be tempted by 'Jethro Tull' (pictured).
'Zamphir' is a heavily advertised C. auriculata hybrid but frankly, I never found it to bloom heavy enough to warrant paying for it twice and given I killed it two years in an overwintering row, I wasn't inclined to go for three.
But give this gardener a daisy and I'll follow you anywhere.