As a child did you ever pull the petals off a daisy flower while hesitantly posing the question, “Loves me, loves me not … ?”
Daisies have always been very popular and why not with their cheery, star-like flowers and not-too-fussed attitude? There are hundreds of daisy varieties but the two most widely-grown members of the Asteraceae family are the Michaelmas and Marguerite types.
Michaelmas daisies, affectionately known as Easter daisies, present an enchanting picture in the late summer and autumn garden with their free-flowering habit and masses of small flowers in shades of white, pale pink, blue, mauve, purple and deep plum/red, all with a central eye of purple or yellow.
How the Michaelmas daisy got its name is quite an interesting story. In 1752 it was found that a slight error was made when fixing the calendar in Julius Caesar’s time resulting in a day being lost every 128 years.
When a measure was enacted in Britain to correct the error, the calendar was days out, so that September 2, 1752 was accounted to be September 14, 1752.
Michaelmas Day which fell on September 29 was therefore brought forward twelve days. Many of the asters were in flower at this time (in the Northern Hemisphere) and so from this event they were given the name Michaelmas.
A favourite in cottage and border gardens, their subtle colours complement most flowers especially chrysanthemums and gladioli which are usually in flower at the same time. Another bonus is that they are superb, long-lasting cut flowers
Michaelmas daisies prefer a moderately rich, well-drained soil in an open, sunny position.
Well-established clumps can be divided in late winter or early spring. Discard the older middle section and replant pieces from the outer part at intervals of 45 centimetres for taller varieties, and about 20 centimetres for dwarf types.
Plant the crown just level with the soil surface and keep regularly watered during spring and summer. After flowering has finished, cut plants back to ground level and apply a mulch of compost.
Marguerite daisies with their kaleidoscope of colours from the delicate to the most dazzling in single and double forms are still trendy in gardens due to their long-flowering season and, even when not in flower, the lovely foliage provides an extra foil for other plants.
Another reason for their popularity and proliferation is that they are so easy to propagate from cuttings taken in spring. Choose a five- to 10-centimetre shoot, remove all flower buds and the lower one-third of foliage then insert into quality potting mix.
Marguerites enjoy the same growing conditions as Michaelmas. Prune to keep bushes tidy and in shape but not too hard.
The removal of spent blooms will encourage continued flowering for all daisy varieties.
April 22-23: The Launceston Horticultural Society’s Autumn Show will be held at St Ailbe’s Hall, Margaret Street, Launceston Saturday 2pm to 5pm and Sunday 9am to 4pm.
Features include produce, large vegetables, potted plants, cut flowers, floral art and giant pumpkins and onions. Plant stalls and refreshments. Entry $2.
May 16: The Australian Plant Society meets at the Max Fry Hall on Gorge Rd, Trevallyn, Launceston at 7.30pm. For Information on APS visit www.apstasnorth.org
May 17: The Launceston Horticultural Society meets at the Windmill Hill Hall, High Street, Launceston at 8pm. Visitors welcome.
May 18: The Launceston Orchid Society will meet at Newnham Uniting Church Hall, George Town Road, Launceston at 7pm.