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The Homeowners Column
Daisies are sure to make you smile
June 17, 2016
State Master Gardener Coordinator
Certain flowers always make me smile. Daisies are at the top of my friendly flower list. Not sure why they always provoke a smile, but maybe it's because they smiled first. It's hard to resist a floriferous smile.
Many flowers donning sunny faces with a yellow center and radiating petals are referred to as daisies; however, in the world of horticulture daisies are generally in the Leucanthemum genus. It may come as a shock but a daisy flower is not a single flower but an inflorescence of many flowers. A quick look with a hand lens reveals the flower center is made of numerous disk flowers and each radiating petal is a ray flower. So with each daisy a complete crowd of flowers are smiling at you.
A delightful (but I must admit weedy) daisy is the European oxeye daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare. Oxeyes reseed like crazy which creates a feral cottage garden appearance I happen to appreciate. As the country cousin to the more refined hybrid Shasta daisies oxeyes possess a relaxed attitude. Some areas of the country consider oxeyes a noxious weed. Be sure to deadhead after flowering to reduce seeding if needed.
Horticultural daisies are usually hybrids with the botanical name of Leucanthemum x superbum and common name of Shasta daisy. We often think of hybrids as a new phenomenon but Shasta daisies were hybridized in the 1890's by the great American plantsman Luther Burbank. His first plants were named after Mt. Shasta in California.
Daisies are best in full sun with well-drained soil especially in winter. In wet areas they are short-lived and quickly decline. Once established daisies are cold hardy perennials that tolerate drought well. If spent flowers are removed, daisies continue to flower for several weeks of happy faced blooms. Shasta daisies are known for their pure white petals and yellow centers. Butterflies love the landing pads of daisy flowers but likely prefer the single flower forms to the double forms. The variability in cultivars is in the size of the flowers, number of petals (some are doubles with multiple petals) and in the size of plants.
Many Shasta daisy cultivars are available. Here a few notable ones:
The Shasta daisy cultivar 'Becky' is one of the more popular with good reason. As the Perennial Plant of the Year™ in 2003 'Becky' has many desirable traits. Although she can reach 3-4 feet tall, she remains upright even after wind and rain. Her flowers reach a whopping 3-4 inches wide for a show stopping mass of smiling daisies. If spent flowers are removed 'Becky' will flower from July into September.
'Alaska' Shasta daisy may be one of the oldest cultivars and it remains one of the best. Flowers are 3 inches in diameter on easily placed 2 to 3-foot tall plants. 'Everest' is similar but with a bit larger flowers and plants.
'Snowcap' as the name implies is more compact and bushy at 15-18 inches tall. It stands even after high winds and rain as a popular dwarf cultivar.
If you are looking for more flower power 'Marconi' is double flowered form meaning it has more of the ray petals (flowers). Flowers are a good 4 inches in diameter on 3-foot tall plants.
'Mount Shasta' also produces double flowers on a smaller 2-foot tall plant.
We could all use a smile right now. Why not plan for a few to greet you in your garden by adding Shasta daisies.
Saturday June 18, 9am-4pm Champaign County Master Gardeners Garden Walk in Champaign, Urbana and Philo. Tickets and shopping available at Idea Garden (south of the corner of Florida and Lincoln Avenues in Urbana).
Saturday June 25, 9am-1pm Ford-Iroquois County Master Gardeners Garden Walk in Paxton/Loda area; garden shopping Paxton's Majestic Park. Tickets available at Ford-Iroquois County Extension, 916 W Seminary Ave, Onarga PH: 815.268.4051 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/