The daisy family Asteraceae contains more than 32,000 species of plants in 1,900 genera. Members of the family are commonly called daisies, asters, or sunflowers. For me a "true" daisy is white with a yellow centre. Following are my two favourite varieties.
Ox-eye Daisy - Leucanthemum vulgare
Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is a perennial herb from Europe that spreads mainly by seed but also has shallow creeping roots called rhizomes. This plant is the backbone of my meadow garden. The white daisy flower swaying in the breeze gives the meadow garden its charm and whimsy.
It is important to note that this plant needs to be kept under control either by dead heading or by removing unwanted plants. The Scotts, who called them “gools,” made the unfortunate farmer whose wheat fields had the most ox-eye daisies pay an extra tax.
Ox-eye daisy is drought and frost tolerant, flowering in spring and summer and grows to approx 70cm in height. It is an excellent cut flower that brings the beneficial insects to your garden. Sow seeds directly in late autumn. The cold winter temperatures help the flower seeds to germinate in the spring when the temperatures warm up. Pinch back young daisy plants to keep them bushy. The plants prefer a rich, well-drained, evenly moist soil and full sun.
Culinary note: The young leaves, flowers and flower buds are edible.
Shasta Daisy - Leucanthemum × superbum
Shasta Daisies are a perennial cottage garden staple. These cheery flowers start to appear in late spring and continue on for several months. Deadheading will assist with prolonging the flowering. Shasta Daisies are a hardy plant that will thrive in less than ideal conditions. The main requirements are full sun and well drained soil. Plants grow to 60cm however are much taller when in flower. Due to their size they are heavy and will flop. It is best to grow the plants through a hoop of sturdy wire.
Shasta Daisies are an excellent cut flower with a long vase life. Harvest early in the morning and place in cool water and condition for a couple of hours.
Seeds are best sown when temperatures are around 20C and the danger of frost has passed. You can either direct sow or sow in pots. Cover seeds with a fine layer of potting mix, water and keep damp not wet. Germination will occur between 10 to 14 days. Grow plants onto a height of 10cm and transplant into the garden.
Daisies are the symbol of purity and innocence which is why they are given to new mothers. They are excellent cut flowers due to their popularity and long vase life. Classic and elegant on their own or team them with sunflowers for a rustic country wedding.