Gardening: Power flowers: A hand-picked guide to hardy perennials: 3: Daisy

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DAISIES have staying power. Where they are allowed to grow on lawns, they flower all summer, proof that what they like most is to be beheaded once a week. Those who have grown the half-hardy marguerites which are now standard garden-centre fare all over the country will know that regular dead-heading also keeps these going all summer. But there are daisies less demanding than the tender ones sold as summer bedding, and some of those continue to flower without being decapitated.

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' is the pale yellow form of a familiar gold daisy. In a sunny place, it makes a bushy plant about 2ft high, with needle-thin leaves and tiny flower stars all summer. Like all daisies it likes to be divided every spring, but does not need dead-heading. In a town garden this pale Coreopsis might be planted among Iris pallida dalmatica, whose architectural leaves last better than those of an ordinary iris, to make an interesting border for most of the year.

To plant a spot with 24 geraniums in summer and the same number of pansies in winter might cost anything from pounds 50 to pounds 100 annually. But the outlay for 24 perennial plants would be about the same as for one season's bedding, and they would be permanent. And if in these hard times you felt that pounds 30 was too much to spend in one season on flowers, you could buy only a couple of plants for the first summer and by the second divide these to make more than enough for a splash.

Other daisies are similarly recession-proof. Aster frikartii 'Monch' is a hazy blue Michaelmas daisy. It is larger than Moonbeam at 2ft 6in and the flowers are bigger too. Monch keeps going from midsummer until the worst autumn weather. It is a foolproof plant, although it can become leggy if the tips are not pinched out as it grows. But it is important to insist on the named form. Plants raised from seed do not come true and there are some poor and washy coloured versions on sale. To be sure of what you are getting, go to a small, specialist nursery, where they grow what they sell and raise plants from cuttings taken from a named clone.

Cosmos atrosanguineus is the chocolate-scented, deep plum-red daisy, which in this Gloucestershire garden is still flowering in November. Reputedly tender, Cosmos will survive with a little protection to keep it dry and warm in winter. A thick layer of bark chippings will do. In southern gardens it should come through unscathed, but everywhere Cosmos is late to emerge. Its non-

appearance until June encouraged those who had never grown it to think it had succumbed to winter, but gardeners are now finding that Cosmos is much hardier than we were led to believe. Once up, it will flower non-stop; but, like dahlias, to which it is closely related, it does appreciate water and liquid feed in dry summers.

Erigeron karvinskianus is my favourite daisy, because it looks like a finer version of the ones that grow on the lawn. Its tiny flowers come in apple-blossom pink and white and it is still flowering in my November garden. I have seen it covering walls in Dorset, where it makes hanging mats of flowers, and seeding freely over huge areas of paving. Stony places suit it because it likes to be dry in winter. Establishing this low-growing plant is sometimes tricky. But once settled, it will seed generously, giving you subdued summer colour all season for free.

(Photograph omitted)

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