Gardens : A Garden of Its Own There Are So Many Types of the Lowly Daisy, You Could Grow Nothing But

Mary Ellen Guffey tends a prize-winning Malibu flower garden .

IF YOU'RE ESPECIALLY fond of daisies, it's easy to grow nothing but; daisies make up the largest family of flowering plants, Compositae. This garden, photographed last June, caught all of the various daisies--both spring- and summer-flowering--in bloom together.

The biggest daisy, and the best-known, is the marguerite. Usually planted in the fall, marguerites develop into four- to five-foot mounds of yellow-centered blooms. Most marguerites that flower heavily one year do not perform well the next, but some gardeners manage to coax them into bloom a second year. The double, pink variety 'First Love' seems to be the longest-lasting.

Another fall-planted daisy is felicia ( F. amelloides ), sometimes called the blue marguerite. This yellow-eyed, blue-rayed spring perennial forms rounded mounds, although it requires pruning to keep it attractive. There is also a white felicia, 'Hartley's White,' which is longer-lived than white marguerites.

Probably the most dependable of all daisy perennials is the Shasta daisy. The double Shasta 'Marconi' blooms heavily in May and June and delivers unexpected solitary blossoms at other times. Shastas should be divided every two or three years in the fall. Other excellent Shastas are 'Esther Read,' a crested double that resembles a chrysanthemum, and 'Silver Dollar,' a dwarf single.

A daisy that looks like a small Shasta and lacks a good common name is Chrysanthemum paludosom. Generally planted in fall or early spring, this annual daisy spreads quickly to swallow up surrounding plantings. When warm weather arrives, it quits, so be ready with a replacement. It will return from seed next winter, however.

Gloriosas ( Rudbeckia hirta ) are warm-weather favorites because of their rich gold and brown tones and sturdy, carefree habit. The single hybrids can produce five- to seven-inch blossoms on four-foot stems, and the double varieties are somewhat shorter and smaller. It's not too late to plant gloriosas, but keep them thoroughly watered at first.

Golden fleece, or the Dahlberg daisy, is an often-overlooked warm-weather daisy. The blossom of this annual looks like a tiny gold marguerite. The plant grows about six inches high, producing charming mounds of ferny foliage. It not only tolerates heat but also withstands moderate drought--once it's established. Young plants need a month or two of nurturing before they have root systems sufficient to endure reduced watering.

Brachycome, a fall-planted blue daisy, grows to only five inches and bears flowers for many months. It is hard to find, but all the other daisies mentioned are readily available in larger garden centers.

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