Daisies to delight, cut flowers to cultivate.

While dancing among the daisies, take time to sow midsummer cut flowers for an extended flowering summer.

The best impulse buy you can make this spring is a daisy bush. The challenge will be deciding whether to take home a Cape daisy (osteospermum) or a Marguerite daisy (argyranthemum) or both!

Each is drop dead gorgeous. My neighbour is not an avid gardener but when I peeked over the wall to check out her garden I almost fell off the wall. Her plant box of osteospermum was simply vibrating with brilliant purple flowers against glossy green leaves.

Then a little later I visited a friend’s garden in a retirement village and turned a deeper shade of green when I saw how her double pink argyranthemum was just a mound of flowers.

What’s the common denominator? Both get plenty of morning and early afternoon sun and regular watering either by hand or with an irrigation system. For the rest, these daisies are really happy in ordinary garden soil that drains well.

The other thing is that they perform equally well in largish pots, planters or in the garden, because the newer, more compact varieties like Osteospermum Serenity or Argyranthemum Madeira maintain their garden height of 30cm and spread of about 50cm, without falling open. Argy’s may be a little rounder and shrubbier.

Their main flowering seasons are spring and autumn, with the osteos usually coming into flower earlier while the argy has a slightly longer flowering season.. Both benefit from deadheading and because of the mass of argy flowers the easiest method is to use garden shears to cut off the flowers when they start to decline.

If cut back after their first flowering, they should bounce back and also flower in summer, although not as profusely in the midsummer heat. Advice from Kathy Varney from BallStraathof is to cut down to the first or second growing points or to the third leaf, enrich the soil with some compost, a sprinkling of fertiliser and water well.

The only real point of difference is the range of colours and the foliage.  The main colours in the argy Madeira a range are deep pink or hot pink, white, yellow and red. The leaves are a light feathery green.

The osteo’s on the other hand have an eye-popping range of colours that includes all sorts of novelties like yellow with a blue or pink eye,  bronze, orange with a purple eye, lavender shades, and bicolours as well as flowers that change colour as they age. The leaves are a dark, glossy green.

In the end it is a matter of taste and which one fits better into your garden. Neither should disappoint.

Having got the impulses out of your system, start thinking ahead to the annuals and perennials that can be sown now but have a longer growing season, with flowers to pick for the home later in summer, like antirrhinum (snapdragons) asters, delphiniums and foxgloves.

It is easier, though not essential, to sow in seed trays and transplant once the seedlings have reached a manageable size.   

Antirrhinum ‘Fancy Show Mixed’ is a Kirchhoffs variety that is a tall cut flower (70 – 90cm tall) in a  mix of colours, mainly yellow, red, bronze, rose, pink and cream that  blend with most other garden plants.  It flowers within 80 to 100 days from sowing.

Asters are an old fashioned garden favourite and cut flower with fragrant singe daisy-like flowers or doubles with crested centres in shades of pink, blue,  scarlet, purple, and white. They have a slightly longer growing season than antirrhinum. Plants grow up to 70cm and need plenty of sun to flower well.

Delphinium ‘Giant Pacific Mix’ is a traditional border plant with tall spikes of blooms. Seed can be slow and irregular to germinate so start in seed trays. Rich soil will give spectacular results. They flower within 150 days.

Foxglove ‘Excelsior Mixed’ is an easy growing perennial for partial shade. Spikes reach up to 1m high and the florets have contrasting shadings and markings in their throats.

Daisies to delight – Published in the Beeld. Written by Alice Coetzee.