About Good Scents

The cut flower business ended in 2011 but I continue to post other items about gardening.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Leucanthemum superbum (Shasta Daisy)

Like Rodney Dangerfield, shasta daisies just get no respect. Because they are simple flowers whose relatives grow wild in fields, many people shun shasta daisies. This is a shame because simple, plain flowers like shastas are necessary in both a garden and a vase to really make the most of big showy flowers like peonies, delphiniums, lilies, and dahlias. A big bunch of lilies in a vase is lovely, as is a bed full of delphiniums, but to me both look better when combined with other flowers of contrasting shape and color. Because they are pretty without being attention grabbers, Shasta daisies are particularly good for this purpose.
White shasta daisies, yellow heliopsis and orange calendula complement blue delphiniums.

My favorite garden writer, Henry Mitchell, first pointed this out when he said that a bed of dayliles is greatly improved by adding clumps of shasta daisies between the dayliles. I tried this and really liked the contrast in color and form between the dayliles and the white daisies and it is a lesson I try to remember when making bouquets.

Shastas have been extensively bred since the first hybrids were introduced by Luther Burbank in 1901, and they now come in a range of heights and include fancy varieties with double flowers and quilled petals. There are even some varieties that are pale yellow instead of white. Their bloom season has also been extended so some bloom as early as late May with different varieties continuing until July. I already grow a couple of the double varieties along with some of the late blooming singles but decided to add some of the early flowering ones to help with the slow time in late May. I chose the seed strain ‘May Queen’ which is early but more prolific and larger than the field daisies that bloom near the same time.

Shasta daisies are readily available as 3" perennials. 'Alaska', introduced by Burbank more than a century ago, is the most common of the singles. It is also now easy to find the double, quilled 'Crazy Daisy' which bloom a little later. For still later in the summer a nice one is 'Becky' but it will cost a bit more since it is a not a seed strain and is only available by division. If you aren't fussy about the variety you can always ask for divisions from friends and neighbors. They are best divided in spring.

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