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SOUTH AFRICAN SUPERSTARS: Daisies from the Cape are perfect for adding vivid colour to borders

SOUTH AFRICAN SUPERSTARS: Daisies from the Cape are perfect for adding vivid colour to borders

  • Nigel Colborn explains how Britain grows more that 70,000 plant varieties 
  • UK-based garden expert describes that many of them come from South Africa 
  • African bulbs include nerines, gladioli and blue agapanthus to name a few  

On the Chelsea Flower Show’s final day, let’s cheer for British horticulture. Thanks to organisations like the Royal Horticultural Society — plus our damp, gentle climate — British gardens are richer and more diverse than those of any other nation. 

We grow a legacy of more than 70,000 plant varieties, many introduced from all over the world. Many come from one country — South Africa. Out there, the Cape Region alone has more wild plant species than all of Europe. 

Many, such as white arums and freesias are treasured as cut flowers. African bulbs include nerines, gladioli and blue agapanthus. For summer bedding, borders or patio containers, South African daisies are the big stars. 

Some of the prettiest are annuals, known in Africa as rain daisies, dimorphotheca pluvialis. Their dark-eyed, white daisy flowers open wide, after September rains. That’s when South African spring flowers begin to bloom, painting the veldt with rainbow colours. 

UK-based garden expert Nigel Colborn says that South African daisy or osteospermum (pictured) lights up a British garden

In Britain, we’re more familiar with the rain daisy’s close relatives, osteospermum. Those are perennial, some with shrubby characteristics and all with large daisy flowers. Each has a dark, purplish centre with ray florets in pale pastel shades. 

If such plants are new to you, do give them a try.

BRED FOR BRITAIN

Every gardener should visit the South Africa’s Cape Region, even if once in a lifetime. The flora is amazingly diverse and heavenly to see at its best. 

Here in Britain, South African daisies are among the prettiest and most reliable summer plants. Many are hardy — or nearly so, coming in a wide range of colours and styles. 

Osteospermums are the most adaptable. The prettiest wild varieties have medium to large daisy flowers, always with contrasting centres. Among cultivated varieties, colours can range from orange, yellow or purple, pink, down to pale mauves, soft yellows or white. 

The trailing variety O. Falling Stars is perfect for hanging baskets of window boxes. Colours are white, gentle orange or purple — all with dark centres. O. 3D Double Pink has mauve outers surrounding shorter, darker inner florets. 

My favourite, though is O. Serenity Blue-eyed Beauty. Primrose yellow ray florets surround brooding purple centres. 

Modern varieties like those may be too flashy for some tastes. Older ones, though less flashy are easier to propagate and tougher in bad weather. 

The species O. jucundum is a pinkish-flowered favourite of mine. Clump-forming, hardy and fully perennial, it gives decades of service. Cuttings will root in a fortnight, too. 

DAZZLER DAISIES 

If you like contrasting colours and big flowers, gazanias might suit your needs. Most develop as low-growing mounds whose dark, basal leaves surround large, often two-tone flowers. 

Most gazanias come in hot colours — vivid orange or strident yellows. But named varieties can be bi-coloured, some with pink or red shades, contrasting with cream or primrose. G. Big Kiss White Flame has soft maroon petals with cream margins. 

The summer planting season is in full swing but garden centres and online suppliers such as crocus.co.uk still have supplies. I’m sorely tempted by the rose-purple gazania Christopher Lloyd at £6.99 per plant. 

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