How To Grow Delightful Daisies
Daisies are stunning, easy to grow and come in every size and colour.
Daisies are popular, pretty and versatile. They belong to the Asteraceae or Compositae family and are one of the most numerous plant families; along with Orchids. They come in a huge range of sizes from the smallest daisy that you get in the lawn to the tallest sunflower; and every colour under the sun. They comprise 26,000 + species and are spread from the polar regions to the tropics, only being absent from Antartica and the high Arctic. They are most numerous in arid and semi-arid habitats of tropical and sub-tropical regions. They have a variety of uses; culinary, medicinal and are good for wildlife. The majority are herbaceous but they do occur in shrub, tree and vine form. Some, such as the dandelion, are invasive, which you definitely don’t want so remember to do your research or ask a member of the garden centre staff. Erigeron karvinskianus is one invasive member of the family that I’m sure you won’t mind spreading over the garden.
Erigeron karvinskianus at Sizergh Castle
The Aster family of plants are star shaped and attractive to bees and other insects so make good plants for attracting pollinators. The major species for attracting bees are: Centaurea (Knapweed), Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) and Solidago (Golden Rod) which have high protein pollen which keeps bees going over winter. Cooking oil, sunflower seeds, absinthe from Artemesia, cold remedies from Ecinacea, lettuce and herbal teas from Chamomile are all to be obtained from daisies. The petals are all edible and are a high source of vitamin C, so make a healthy and attractive addition to a salad.
They are widely available in garden centres in the form of Chrysanthemums, Asters, Gerberas, Osteospermums, Calandulas, Cosmos, Helianthemums and Rudbeckias to name just a few; and either as seeds or plants.They need a well-drained soil in a sunny position. They will also benefit from regular dead-heading and a feed of tomato fertiliser throughout the flowering season.
Forms of daisies
These are sown and flower all in one season and are replaced every year, either by buying fresh seed or collecting the seed. Hardy annuals can be sown outside from April to May, as they will survive being frosted, but half-hardy annuals have to be sown after the frosts. Half-hardy annuals need warm conditions and can be given an early start by sowing in seed trays and germinating in the greenhouse before planting outside. Varieties include: Cosmos, Marigold, Bidens, Helichrysum, Ageratum.
These take two years to complete their life cycle; germinating and growing the first year; flowering and setting seed the second year. Varieties include: Bellis perennis, Taraxacum officinale, Rudbeckia, Erigeron.
These survive through several years, the foliage dying back over winter and growing back in spring. Varieties include: Coreopsis, Anthemis, Ecinacea, Echinops and Leucanthemum vulgare (Ox-eye Daisy), seen on road-side verges. The clumps tend to become woody after a few years so need taking up and splitting into smaller plants. If left they lose their vigour and produce less flowers.
Some plants can be annual or perennial depending upon where you live; being perennial in milder, frost free areas of the country. Varieties include: Thunbergia (Black-eyed Susan), Helianthus, Cynara, Echinops, Osteospermum, Helenium, Gazenia, Dahlia, Aster, Argyranthemum, Helichrysum. In colder areas these can be over-wintered in a frost free greenhouse.
These have multiple woody stems and can be deciduous or evergreen, usually under 210cm (7’). Varieties include: Olearia, Brachyglottis (Senecio). Sinetti (Pericallis) is a sub-shrub sold widely in garden centres as summer bedding, but needs to be brought into a light frost free environment to over-winter.
An unusual member of the daisy family is the Electric Daisy (Acmella oleracea), from Brazil, available in the James Wong seed collection from Suttons. It has a citrus taste with a jolt of electricity which produces a mild local anaesthetic, lasting about 15 minutes. It is a traditional medicine used in the treatment of mouth ulcers, toothache and sore throats. Use only a very, very small amount of petals, not the whole head. Sow from March to April and harvest from June to October. Dead head to encourage a continuous supply of flowers and once the first flowers appear feed with a dilute tomato fertiliser. It can be over-wintered if treated as a houseplant.
Sprinkle a few petals over a salad or mix with chilli and garlic to make a condiment with a kick!
Mango, chilli & electric daisy sorbet
(Courtesy of James Wong and Sutton’s Seeds)
Ingredients: - Serves 4
3 fresh mangoes, peeled and sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh mint
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
250g icing sugar, sifted
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
10 electric daisies, finely chopped
Flaky sea salt
1. Blitz the mangoes, lime zest and juice and icing sugar in a food processor until you get a perfectly smooth puree.
2. Pour the mix into a Tupperware tub, stir through the chillies and the electric daisies and pop in the freezer for 1 hour.
3. Use a fork to give the mix a quick stir every hour or so until fully frozen (this usually takes about 4 hours).The aim is to create a fluffy slush of ice crystals, not one solid frozen block.
4. Wipe the rim of a Martini glass with a slice of lime to coat it in a thin layer of lime juice, flip it over and dip the rim into a mixture of sea salt and chopped electric daisies.
5. Serve the sorbet in the salt-rimmed glass, garnish with electric daisies and freshly sliced chillies & get greedy.
Whether it’s a tongue tingling dessert or the ultimate between-course palate cleanser, this curious “fizzy” sorbet – that is both ‘hot’ and cold at the same time - is guaranteed to bring a smile to your anyone’s faces.