The Hardworking Daisy

Shasta Daisies

What could be fresher than a cheerful daisy? And these babies are tough too.

Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum) are one of the hardest working perennials in the garden. This was proved to me when I planted Shastas in my most inhospitable garden spot: my hell strip. Hell strips are what gardeners call strips of land next to sidewalks, or, in my case, between two sidewalks (typical of many semi-detached houses in Toronto). They commonly have infertile soil that’s tightly tramped down, and are situated in blazing hot sun. They can also be found in shady spots, like mine.
My hell strip is not only very shady, but has sandy soil that’s full of Norway maple tree roots. Norway maple roots form a fibrous mass in the topsoil, and compete with nutrients and water with whatever is planted underneath them: very tough growing conditions. Yet, I’ve been enjoying a clump of Shasta daisies in this spot for many years. Unlike many other perennials in this hellscape, which tend to “run down” (AKA: have the life force sucked out of them by the tree roots) the clump is actually increasing, and it blooms cheerful white and yellow for weeks every June. A very easy, rewarding perennial, that’s highly recommended for:

  • Beginning gardeners
  • Shade or sun
  • For dry soil
  • Cutting flowers for indoor bouquets
  • Low-maintenance gardens

Shastas are a cultivar of the common wildflower daisy, Ox-Eye Daisy. This plant, brought over from Europe, spreads easily and colonizes fields and vacant lots; and though they are considered a noxious weed in many areas, they are a valuable pollinator flower. The ox-eye daisy leaves are edible, and its buds can be used as a caper substitute. Here is some edible daisy info from the Edible Vineyard.

Who hasn’t admired the innocent beauty of a daisy? What young child hasn’t plucked its beautiful white petals, one by one, until only the cheerful yellow center remained, chanting, “(s)he loves me, (s)he loves me not”? The ox-eye is not only candy for the eye, it’s pretty sweet for the palate, too, and being able to recognize it at every stage of growth is key to enjoying this plant to the fullest.

Photo at top: Helen Battersby

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