DAISIES A DI­VERSE BUNCH

AUS­TRALIA HAS AL­MOST 1000 SPECIES, SO THERE SHOULD BE ONE TO AP­PEAL TO EV­ERY GAR­DENER

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MAREE CURRAN Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email [email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

Ithink every­body loves a daisy. The daisy fam­ily is huge, with about 20,000 species world­wide. Aus­tralia is home to nearly 1000 of these, and, as you would ex­pect in such a large group, there is much di­ver­sity.

In­deed, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Na­tive Plants So­ci­ety, “there are too many Aus­tralian daisies to gen­er­alise about the grow­ing con­di­tions they en­joy. Some pre­fer full sun, oth­ers like shade, some like open con­di­tions, oth­ers pre­fer over­head pro­tec­tion. They all ap­pre­ci­ate group plant­ing whereby they ben­e­fit from the in­creased pos­si­bil­i­ties for cross-pol­li­na­tion”.

The most com­mon ones in cul­ti­va­tion are prob­a­bly the cut-leaf or rock daisy (brachyscom­e mul­ti­fida) and the pa­per daisies or ev­er­last­ings (bractean­tha bractea­tum, formerly known as he­lichry­sum bractea­tum, but now re­clas­si­fied as xe­rochry­sum bractea­tum).

Brachyscom­es have small, sin­gle daisy-shaped flow­ers and fine, feath­ery

fo­liage. The flow­ers are 1-2cm in di­am­e­ter, and usu­ally white, pink, mauve or blue with a yel­low cen­tre. They flower most of the year, and grow about 60cm wide and 30-40cm high. They are great for grow­ing in rock­eries or in pots, and will tol­er­ate shal­low, sandy soil in full sun or part shade.

Bractean­thas get their com­mon names, everlastin­g or pa­per daisies, from the masses of dry, pa­pery bracts that sur­round the flower. They last for ages, and make ex­cel­lent dried flow­ers. They range from low-grow­ing an­nu­als less than 30cm tall to taller, shrub­bier forms up to 1m tall. Colours in­clude white, cream, yel­low, red, pink, or­ange, gold and even pur­ple. The fo­liage is also very dif­fer­ent to the brachyscom­e; the leaves are quite large, lance shaped,

greeny-grey and of­ten a bit hairy.

Na­tive daisies flower most of the year, so they are a great al­ter­na­tive to ex­otic species. They are espe­cially use­ful for us­ing as filler plants in new gar­den beds. They will pro­vide lovely colour and in­ter­est while the more per­ma­nent plant­ings are fill­ing out.

You will get the best re­sults in well-drained, slightly acidic soil which is rich in or­ganic mat­ter with reg­u­lar mois­ture. Aim for at least six hours of sun for op­ti­mum flow­er­ing. Fer­tilise a cou­ple of times a year with a well-bal­anced or­ganic plant food.

Na­tive daisies shouldn’t be con­fined to strictly “na­tive’’ gar­dens. They also work re­ally well in pots, hang­ing bas­kets, cot­tage gar­dens, rock­eries, coastal gar­dens and any­where that needs some low-grow­ing, free-flow­er­ing colour.

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