Nick Bailey reveals clever ways to use daisies
These humble plants bring much more to the garden than colour
As summer fades our gardens give a last flurry of flowers in the form of daisies. These humble plants have long carried colour from summer to autumn but they’ve many overlooked garden uses. Here’s my guide to which daisies to use where and for what. Flank banks The upright nature of most asters means they’re rarely considered for ground cover use, but there’s one species that does it really well. On slopes or open borders Aster divaricatus shines. It produces a mass of stems in spring which emerge from the centre of the plant. They barely reach 20cm (8in) before lolloping down on to the ground and continuing their growth across the soil surface. Unlike many of
the other asters, they flower early so can often be found in bloom from late July onwards. Its stems are slightly contorted, delicately wiry and nearly black and set off its galaxy of tiny, yellow-centred white star flowers. Pair with spring bulbs such as scilla, ipheion or bluebells.
Verbena bonariensis is the classic see-through plant but for something different why not introduce a delicate daisy which is light in foliage and lofty of limb. Erigeron annuus has skinny stems up to 1.6m (5ft 2in) tall and small, white daisy flowers which, to the casual observer, would pass as an aster. Grow it mid-border where you can see through it to other plants or try it on its own as an elegant screen.
For good border edgers the two I really rely on are Aster amellus ‘King George’ and aster ‘Violet Queen’. At 40cm (16in) and 45cm (18in) respectively, both begin flowering in August but ‘King George’ holds out until late October, a month longer than ‘Violet Queen’. This is countered though by the sheer intensity of violet petals from ‘Violet Queen’, which is usually the first into bloom and blissfully mildew-free.
Most hedges are almost flower-free evergreen shrubs but why not hedge with a daisy? It works brilliantly at Great Dixter in Sussex, where rows of Symphyotrichum (the new name for some asters) lateriflorum horizontalis (or calico aster) are used to edge borders with their blocky 50x50cm (20x20in) forms. They can be clipped vertically on their sides to be left with a
foam of flowers aloft the hedge come autumn.
Aster ‘King George’ and it bold purple blooms
Tall Erigeron annuus is a great living screen