Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dancing With The Daisies

In her poem, Daisy Time, Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall celebrated these lovely flowers.

See, the grass is full of stars,
Fallen in their brightness;
Hearts they have of shining gold,
Rays of shining whiteness.

Just so do daisies captivate the imaginations of children.  Innocent bouquets, flower chains and circlets are fashioned of them, and their hearts of gold know well whether "he loves" or not.

There are "daisies" among other genera, but the daisies known and loved best are of the genus Leucanthemum (lew-KANTH-ih-mum), meaning "white flower."  The genus contains about 70 species native to Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia.  However, some have been introduced to North America.  Now daisies occur in practically every state and province of the U.S. and Canada.  Plant height is 12" to 48".  Flower color is, of course, white with yellow center.

Buttercups have honeyed hearts,
Bees they love the clover,
But I love the daisies' dance
All the meadow over.

In addition to their imaginative uses as cut flowers, personal adornment, and seers of love, daisies are great for perennial borders and wildflower meadows.  Butterflies and bees love clover, but they adore daisies, too.  So do birds.  More good news:  rabbits do not care to eat them.  Daisies will also make your heart glad because they are easy to care for and drought-tolerant when established.

Daisies thrive in USDA climate zones 3 through 9.  Plant in full sun to partial shade.  Average well-drained garden soil with pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.5 is fine, but organic, well-composted soil is perfect for pushing up daisies.  The seeds are best planted in spring.  Plants can be set any time you have a trowel handy.

Before planting, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office.  They often provide collection bags.  With each soil sample, indicate the type of plant you intend to grow in it.  For the most basic recommendations, you may be charged a nominal fee.  For more information such as micro-nutrient and organic content you may be charged more.

Prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 8" deep, removing all traces of weeds.  Adjust soil pH according to soil test results.

Your soil sample report will also include fertilizer recommendations.  Following instructions is always a good bet.  A fine all-around practice is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer per ten square feet area.  Repeat the application every two weeks during the growing season, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Daisies look great planted with cosmos, coreopsis, coneflower, daylily, black-eye susan, yarrow, salvia and mullein.  Within a couple of seasons they should mature.  Then it's-

Blow, O blow, you happy winds,
Singing summer's praises,
Up the field and down the field
A-dancing with the daisies.

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