They may lack the edgy appeal of architectural succulents or the exotic drama of hybrid orchids, but daisies are a good friend when it comes to easy-care, durable garden colour.
There are several varieties of these easy-going plants — most withstand extremes of drought, wind and coastal conditions, and are fast growing and easy to propagate.
The humble marguerites (Argyranthemum) are often sold as Federation daisies. These hard-working, sun-loving plants come in a range of colours, including whites, yellows and pinks.
‘Summer Lustre’, with white petals emerging from a golden-orange centre is a popular cultivar. When in full flower the plant is so covered in blooms the foliage is almost obscured. This attractive daisy quickly reaches a height of and spread of 60-70cm – great for mass planting.
While there is a place in most gardens for marguerites, they are also good performers in pots, particularly newer Elfin varieties, such as ‘Primrose Petite,’which grows to a height of 40cm, with clear lemon flowers and attractive grey-blue foliage, and ‘Juliana,’ height 40-50cm, a vibrant deep- red with a white eye.
One of my favourite marguerites is the distinctive ‘Felicia amelloides.’ Great for a splash of blue, this free-flowering, hard-working daisy is perfect for a sunny rockery, patio pots or grown en masse to edge a path. It withstands coastal conditions and mild frost, and can be brought back into shape with a hard prune.
Native to South Africa, cape daisies (osteospermum) are real showstoppers with long-lasting colour – many flower continuously throughout the year.
These tough customers enjoy a spot with all-day sun and well-drained soil, so they’re great for a sunny slope or rockery. They have a bushy, mounding habit and attractive evergreen foliage with a huge range of shades, from white through to dark purple.
Perhaps the best known osteospermum is the free-flowering ‘Starry Eyes,’ a striking, twisted flower with mauve-blue and white crimped petals.
Other cultivars to try are ‘Orania Peach,’ with attractive peach-coloured blooms and lush, green foliage, the purple-flowering ‘Magenta Glow,’ and ‘Tresco Pink,’ with large rose-coloured flowers.
Gazanias have dense, tough foliage and will cover a wide area in no time. They provide a generous display of long-lasting, colourful flowers in an extensive range of colours, from creamy-yellow to dark crimson. Tolerant of dry and coastal conditions, they need an occasional trim to remove spent flowers, and require a light feed in autumn.
For a bit of splendour try ‘Vesuvius,’ which produces huge blooms of fiery red petals, edged with bright yellow, or for something more subdued go for the creamy blooms of ‘Kiss White.’
Other daisy-type plants to try include rudbeckia, with stunning golden petals around a dark brown centre, or Echinacea purpurea (purple cone flower) – there is a white cultivar available also. If you fancy a carpet of red, try the reliable, heavy-flowering ground cover arcotis ‘Hannah,’ – or maybe a touch of apricot instead – look for ‘Copper’, a soft apricot-copper bloom.