On recent trips up the east coast, the roadsides were sprinkled all over with the sparkling yellow daisy flowers of coreopsis. The sight of all those sunny blooms was joyous, even without the thrill of being more than five kilometres from home.
The coreopsis looked at ease among the flowering poa, swaths of white kunzea, frothy tea tree and the thickets of wattle seedlings taking advantage of the sunlight post-fires. But like many other roadside weeds, coreopsis is an introduced species, first recorded as naturalised around Kingaroy in 1944, and heading inexorably south ever since, especially where the soil is poor and nutrient-starved: hence the roadsides.
Due to its weedy potential, Coreopsis lanceolata is no longer recommended for gardens, but there are plenty of other ways to get the simple good cheer of a daisy into the garden. Daisy is the name given to the Asteraceae genus of plants, in which a mass of tiny flowers are piled together in a centre surrounded by rays of petals. There are 80-odd species to choose from.
The origins of the word “daisy” are Old English; “day’s-eye” referring to the way the flowers of the original daisy, Bellis perennis, track the path of the sun through the day. Bellis perennis is the little pink and white lawn daisy that is also sold as an annual and adds its charms to cottage gardens and unmown lawns.
The great English gardener, Gertrude Jekyll, heartily approved of its cousin, the seaside daisy, Erigeron karvinskianus, and her garden at Hestercombe in Somerset honours her preference: the daisy festoons every stone wall and surges over every path.
Our own Edna Walling was a fan of the seaside daisy, too, and considered it a great mix with silver birches and dry stone walls, as well as with natives in a more casual garden. An even more harmonious fit with natives would be any of our native daisies, from the blue-flowered brachsychomes to the slew of paper daisies, available as annuals, perennials and small shrubs.
For bigger daisy flowers, choose the shasta, Leucathemum x superbum, a perennial which roars into flower in late spring and blooms through autumn, or the marguerite daisy, Argyranthemum, which flowers through winter and spring.
Australian breeders have updated the marguerite as the Federation daisy, selecting for compactness, early flowering, disease resistance and self-cleaning, meaning that you don’t have to dead-head to keep Federation daisies looking good and covered with flowers. Federation daisies come in a range of colours, but who would pass up the iconic white with gold centre?
Daisies were originally linked to goddesses of love, beauty and fertility but their modern associations are with simplicity and innocence. Unpretentious, cosily domestic, quietly celebrating the goodness of simple things, daisies seem to capture the mood of our times.
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