Monday 11 November 2019

Shasta shines by the seaside

PARTNER: The Shasta daisy sets off many other flowers
PARTNER: The Shasta daisy sets off many other flowers

Gerry Daly

The large, white flowers of Shasta daisy are common in gardens these days and have a few weeks more to run. It is a very popular and easily-grown flower, bright and summery and a good partner for many other plants. Some new kinds have been developed that are ideal for small gardens.

Although named after Mount Shasta, a snow-covered peak in California, it has no other connection with the mountain or the region.

The name was an inspired choice, chosen by the nurseryman who bred the daisy, using, among other daisy species, the wild European dog daisy that is also in flower these days beside roadsides and in thin grassy places.

Brilliant white and very eye-catching, but, when grown on their own, the flowers can look plain and rather dull, with too much white.

In combination with other flowers, they really shine. They look wonderful with fiery red crocosmias, yellow elecampane, red hot poker, evening primrose, tall blue agapanthus, golden rod, and smouldering hot dahlias.

The white daisies cool the hot colours but also bring out their richness and make them sparkle while the colourful flowers set off the brilliance of the daisies, their yellow centres playing a part.

The flat shape of the daisy flowers also plays a role, contrasting with upright flower spikes of some plants.

Some named varieties have been bred from the original plant, many of them double-flowered or with fringed flowers.

Most have a yellow button centre, typical daisy-shape, such as Snowcap, while others have short yellowish extra petals. Aglaia has extra petals and a yellowish centre. Wirral Pride is similar, and Phyllis Smith has reflexed petals that can make it look like an echinacea.

Some shorter versions with single flowers have been selected, such as Snow Lady and White Knight, and these would suit a small garden, but although these have their merits, they lack the exuberant character of the original plant.

A range of pale yellow varieties has been bred, notably the aptly named Banana Cream which is very decorative. Goldfinch opens a bright yellow with slightly feathered petals and fades to cream. Real Dream opens pale yellow and fades to white. Both are less than 60cm, the main kind being 90cm or more.

Shasta daisy is easily propagated by division. It also self-sows and comes true to type.

It is vigorous and forms a robust clump, growing in any soil but best in well-drained soil in a sunny spot. It also looks best in full sunshine where its brightness is enhanced. For this reason, too, it looks great in a seaside garden.

In a windy garden, the clumps can be split and the flower stems are knocked over. But this usually occurs where the plant is grown in overly rich soil, and any kind of rich feeding should be avoided to prevent excessive vigour.

Sunday Independent

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