The Bellis Perennis Obsession
The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.
This is a snippet of the lyrics for Brain Damage by Pink Floyd. Every time I hear it I think of my time in England and the profusion of white lawn daisies – Bellis Perennis – that would adorn each and every lawn for miles around come spring. Lawn purists hate the lawn daisy because it can grow lower than the grass is being cut and just like our dandelion, the little white daisy soon pokes through taunting said purist. I could never understand how anyone could not want this flower to grow en masse but alas.
The lawn daisy, to me, is such an amazingly beautiful little flower that evokes pure happiness and joy. Lazy summer days sitting on the grass making daisy chains is something all should experience. Should you not know what a daisy chain is, basically, you pick the daisy as far down as possible ensuring you have plenty of stem. You then join each stem of each daisy forming a circle. That circle can be as big or as small as you like. A scene comes to mind of a young girl making a chain big enough to fit over her head. Pure joy!
Even Chaucer adored this beautiful simple flower:
But for to looke upon the daisie,
That well by reason men it call may
The daisie, or els the eye of the day,
The empress and floure of floures all,
I pray to God that faire mote she fall,
And all that loven floures for her sake.
Longing for those days in an English Garden
As the years have passed, the longing for the ideal gardening conditions of England has not really dissipated. There were plenty of plants that graced my English garden I never thought twice about or in some instances actually considered a nuisance (geraniums for example) that I now tend to pine for. An English garden is something extraordinary to behold and when I find myself missing my own personal piece of paradise of yore, I attempt to grow plants from my gardening past. There is always the hope that perhaps I will get it right and the plants will move beyond survival and actually thrive.
While I could easily find the taller, Bellis perennis double varieties at practically any garden center, this is not the simple lawn daisy I was longing for. They are too fancy for a start and they are not the English lawn daisy I knew and loved. Trying to find plants proved impossible so I had to opt for seeds. I found a good vendor selling them on eBay. I just checked my online order history and it seems I started this project to grow lawn daisies in July of 2012 which would have been one month after moving into this house. I am trying to remember now where I would have planted them. I have a bed along my right fence that I dug out for the purpose of growing bulbs. It is quite possible I planted them there but if that bed was not formed yet, I would have planted them somewhere else – perhaps under my aspen in the retaining wall. I wish I had created a journal entry to mark the occasion.
Regardless, it seems this endeavor failed because I ordered more May 24th 2014. I do have a journal entry for that and I did plant them in the bulb bed near the front. Here is that entry:
Seed planting! I have been putting random seeds in random locations. For example I potted up the sweet potato vines in the hanging baskets and added some sweet peas along with borage. I took a bunch of miscellaneous seeds including some Achillea and broadcast among the withering bulbs. I also planted some Flanders Poppies. My Bellis perennis seeds arrived and I planted them at the base of the bulb bed. My Phacelia also arrived and I planted them in the right corner near the patio where I placed some Gladiola bulbs. I also put some in four small starting pots and they now sit on the dining table outside. They are also planted in the black planter near the old stand where the converted watering can sits. I hope to see them come up.
The Ever Changing Garden!
I am amused by that old journal entry. While it does accurately record my first planting of the Bellis, I realize that the other seeds planted are now nowhere near their original locations. The Phacelia now is controlled to one area under the kitchen window for example. It is only this season that I had a successful bloom of the Flanders poppies and I never did see the achillea come up. Well, just today I was cleaning up that bulb bed a bit and I think I did see some small sprouts of achillea but it is doubtful they are from that original broadcasting of seeds but the result of my residing birds doing their own bit of gardening.
So, what happened to the Bellis planted in the bulb bed? Well, they came up and I did receive a few small blooms but I discovered a problem. They were growing way too close to the lawn. Now, I know that these plants can be mowed down to ground level and would come back and bloom BUT that was in the ideal growing conditions of England. Here, in my arid, cold Colorado garden, I was not willing to risk putting any stress on these plants so I had to schedule a surgical procedure. I took out my Hori-Hori and dug deep down in a perfect circle around the healthiest specimens and managed to extract a large clump. I then found a space that received morning sun only, cleared it out, amended the soil with all sorts of yummy compost and the like and transplanted the clump.
Post-surgery, I monitored my patient and I babied it something terrible. I hand watered it and ensured no weed came near it. The area I cleared out was of decent size and I thought perhaps my little Bellis Perennis clump could use some company so I performed another surgical procedure. This time, I lifted some Labrador violets and placed them to the left of the clump of daisies. Days and weeks passed and both patients seemed to have adapted quite nicely. Oh, the reason I moved the violets is due to them being planted in an area that had wonderful deep, morning shade but then horrible, menacing afternoon heat and these plants do not like full sun let alone full afternoon sun!
The summer of 2015 came to a close and autumn arrived in grand fashion raining down reds, oranges and gold’s upon the earth. I raked these gifts over my patients tucking them in for a long winter’s nap. After winter released its grasp from the land, I was once again amazed by all the new life in the garden. I slowly removed a portion of the earthly blanket I created from my two patients and was so happy to see green underneath. Weeks passed and soon, the last frost date arrived so it was time to clear the entire blanket of leaves not just from the Bellis but from all parts of the garden. Each day more and more leaves appeared on my treasured plants and then I was graced with blooms. Success and blessings!
Today, as summer starts to wind down, the Bellis Perennis patch is not much to look at but there is a decent amount of growth and there have been many, many flowers and I am confident the seeds are making traveling plans in their quest to spread throughout this entire space and beyond. Well, that is what I would like to hope. Next spring shall tell.
Some say there is no room for sentimentality in a garden. Some adopt the notion of ruthlessness when it comes to achieving the perfect ‘look’ for their little bit of earth. Why? Yes, you can come to regret it if you are not actively maintaining your garden. You know, the usual deadheading, trimming, dividing, weeding and the like are integral to the success of any garden but some take it a step further and refuse to allow anything that does not ‘fit’. Take the manicured lawn scenario for example. A greater portion of our population will go to great lengths to ensure there is no form of adulteration within their patches of green. Yes, a lawn is gorgeous but it is also a menace. Perhaps not so much if you live in England where you have the rainfall to sustain the perfect lawn but for where I live, one can waste so much time and more important WATER trying to achieve the perfect lawn. Come Late July, early August, no matter your efforts, your lawn is going to be more brown than the coveted green. Thank you to those wonderful watering restrictions! (And I mean this most sincerely)
Sorry, I went on a tangent.
I get attached to plants. I am sentimental and I make no apologies for it. I love the stories behind the plants and I have shared one such story with you today. I hope it has inspired you. Perhaps you too have a special plant you have cultivated in your garden that evokes some special memory. If so, please share. Have I inspired you to grow the humble lawn daisy of old? If so, here is where you can order some seeds.
Put some down in the autumn and see if you get some sprouts in early spring. I promise you will be delighted by these petite, humble white flowers popping up to greet you throughout the late spring and early summer – and if you are lucky in early autumn.
I thank you kindly for reading! Blessings to you all and happy gardening!
PS: Oh, yes, after that horrific hail storm mentioned in last post, I am very pleased to say that overall the garden DID bounce back for the most part. Yes, I lost some plants, the trees were damaged as was the roof of our house but overall, after all is said and done, the garden doesn’t look too worse for wear. And now, some photos!
I am not your atypical gardener. My garden is not neat nor tidy and has many flaws. These are not the hypercritical flaws that only a perfectionist could point out but more of the “I let weeds grow in certain areas” type of flaws. I grow clover everywhere and pray it will replace my grass one day. Dandelions have a spot as do certain thistles. A “weed” has to become much of a nuisance (pigweed for example) before I will pull it. Some things just get too invasive if left to their own devices. It can be argued that dandelions are very invasive to let stay. In the defense of dandelions, I consider it a crop as the leaves are extremely nutritious.
Dandelion leaves are perhaps the most nutritious green you can eat. They are packed with antioxidants and the health benefits are proven. More on that in another post.
To add to all my idiosyncrasies, I grow certain plants for the sole purpose of being eaten – typically by caterpillars. When living in Tucson, I grew a passion flower vine native to the desert southwest of Arizona just to have it eaten by gulf frit larvae. The vines expected this however and once they were defoliated, they grew more leaves and along came more gulf frits and so the cycle went. I would never consider spraying butterfly caterpillars nor remove their larvae, etc. My garden is a reclaimed habitat for those that have been displaced.
This year I grew many host plants and the bounty of insects that arrived was a sort of homecoming I will forever cherish. First it was the ladybugs that swarmed to the yarrow and the Queen Anne’s lace. Every gardener wants ladybugs to visit their garden and yet few realize it is a simple process of including plants they love for food and raising young. My next visitor I am happy to say was the black swallowtail who by all sheer joys proceeded to lay eggs on my dill.
For reasons that elude me, I have had difficulty in the past growing dill. I don’t know why but this year, many varieties came up including the mammoth dill. It is on this dill that the female black swallowtail decided this would be a great place to lay her eggs. I was excited to harvest the dill for myself but once I realized this was a host plant for this magnificent butterfly, I let them enjoy it instead.
During a casual morning of routine watering, I looked down and there were the caterpillars in various stages of growth. Most were in their first and second instar stages. In a flash, I had full grown caterpillars decimating my dill plant to bare stems. I loved every moment of it. Here are some photographs:
As quickly as they arrived, they were gone. I would really love to know where they wandered to pupate. I never saw a single chrysalis. I was told by a fellow gardener that they are camouflaged so well that I could be staring right at one and not even realize. I just pray they all emerged and are on their way to somewhere warm.
My friends, the garden is our solace and of course we want it to look its best. Saying that, our gardens are more than just the beds, the shrubs and the décor. They are home to many critters and with habitats disappearing at an alarming rate, wouldn’t it be great to give back to nature by being a friend to all. I am not saying to welcome the aphids or sawfly larvae with open arms but perhaps those creatures that benefit us in one way or another should be welcomed.
Perhaps next year, you can grow some dill or parsley (plants from the carrot family) so to attract the black swallowtail, some Queen Anne’s Lace for the ladybugs, milkweed for the monarchs and the list goes on and on. It is easy to be nature’s friend.
I thank you kindly for reading. I apologize for the lack of entries. If I can offer any defense, it is because I have been too busy gardening. Saying that, the season is winding down and I hope to post many articles highlighting all the miracles I witnessed. Blessings to you and yours and happy gardening!
From age 10 through age 18, I lived in a modular home in the small town of Mountain View, Wyoming. Although my parents owned the plot of land where our home was, they never did anything with it. The yard was full of rocks and the only plants that grew were hard stubbly grass and of course dandelions. I remember that some of our neighbors actually grew things in their yards. Some even had proper gardens with snow peas and flowers and I knew then how important it was to beautify the outside of your home just as you would the inside.
I did not try to persuade my parents to grow plants or flowers. Instead I went about growing my own. Please bear in mind I was only ten and my resources were limited of how and what I could grow. I knew that when the dandelions were no longer yellow and instead little puffs of white, that the things that blew off were in fact seeds. I went around and gathered up as many seeds as I could fit in my little hands. I then went about digging a hole with an old shovel and at the same time clearing out rocks near the side of the house. I couldn’t dig very far because the ground was extremely hard. I put all the seeds I gathered into a neat row in the hole I dug. I then buried them. I went into the house, got a glass of water and watered them and continued to water them daily after that.
I can not recall how long it took the seeds to sprout but I would like to say two weeks. I do remember how excited I was when I saw green poking through the dirt. For me, there are not many life experiences that compare to the excitement of helping something grow from a seed to a plant. It is magical. You start out with little fluffy seeds, you bury them, water them and before long you have brand new plants emerging from the ground. I loved my little row of dandelions. Yes, I realized this was only a “weed” but I helped these particular “weeds” grow.
Every day I would rest on my elbows and take a mental note of how much they were growing. I always made sure they were watered and they thanked me by getting bigger. After some time had gone by, I was blessed with flowers. I remember taking one of the flowers and putting it in a book so I could have it forever. I of course don’t have the book any longer but it would sure be great if I did.
As the weeks turned into months, I was quite pleased with myself. What started out as a rocky barren piece of ground in front of the house now had several dandelions growing and thriving. When winter came, they would die back but would return again in spring in larger numbers.
And now some photos from the garden. I hope you do not mind but I got a bit artistic with some of these. I thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening!
It is amazing what can happen in just two and a half weeks! Spring has finally arrived and actually, the temperatures lately have been more summer than spring like. Like all things, this is only temporary though and cooler weather returns this week. With the warmer weather, I am pleased to share that everything seemed to make it through the record cold mentioned in the last post. All the new plants suffered a little bit but overall made it through unscathed. The rock jasmine’s canopy of miniature white flowers died off so I cut them back. Today, I noticed they are coming back in grand fashion. There was some burning on the bellis but through it all, the pink showy flowers are still pink and showy. All the buds formed on the aspens, elderberry, etc., made it through fine as well. There is so much new growth and new surprises every day. It truly is miraculous and so humbling.With the rise in temperatures, I have been very busy improving soil, digging, planting plants and seeds and moving things around to conform to whatever my current mood ends up being. I want to make a point to keep a journal of everything I do outside so I can refer back to it in the future. This will be particularly useful when it comes to planting seeds. I tend to forget not only what I planted but also where and when. Hopefully I can be diligent enough to remember to write in the little notebook every time I am outside. Here are my notes thus far:
Friday, 3 May I planted several Flanders poppy seeds along with some marjoram near the mint julep. I also planted some carrot seeds in the green house.
Saturday, 4 May I planted some purslane. (UPDATE 13 May 2013) I can see the purslane seedlings emerge.Saturday, 11 May
Imperial Giant Larkspur planted behind the juniper shrub. (Note: I am very doubtful this shrub is going to make it. Is the growth (if it is indeed growth) green or grey? It is so hard to tell. It looks so tatty at the moment and though I am a very patient gardener, I am not sure about whether I will keep it.
Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate from Seed Savers planted in large pot near shed
Red Flax (Linum Rubrum) from Native Seed Company (I believe this went in the large pot near shed)
Wave Petunia Mix planted in two small stone planters and also in leaf shaped bird bath. UPDATE 19 May – I converted the bird bath to what it was made for and dumped the dirt with seeds, etc., in retaining wall bed.
Found tag for blackberry planted under the large aspen and now I have its name — It is called Triple Crown Blackberry. This plant has been slow to break dormancy.I retrieved the roses I purchased from Holly Acres. I opted to plant them in front of the large planted area that contains the large aspen tree. I already had the hole for one dug so I placed the rose into its new home. Here is the information on the tag:
(cv. WEKscemala) Chihuly Rose (Floribunda)
In naming a rose to honor America’s famous glass artist, Dale Chihuly, it had to have impeccable style and an ever-changing array of flashy colors. This rose has it all! As the sun hits the opening petals, they blush from subtly-striped apricot yellow to dazzling orange and deep red . . . . producing a remarkable display against the deep dark green leaves and mahogany-red new growth.
Bloom/Size: Medium-large, double
Petal Count: 25 to 30
Fragrance: Mild tea
Parentage: Scentimental and Amalia
Comments: Larger flowers in cool conditions
I purchased another trumped creeper to mirror the other planted on the right side of the patio. I dug its hole today. Here is the information from the tag:
Campsis x tagliabuana ‘Madame Galen’
All summer flowering
Large, fast growing, clinging vine with stems to 15 to 30 feet
Tuesday, 14 May:
Planted some desert sunflower seeds near the Chihuly rose
Thursday, 16 May
Planted old Marigold seeds among the clover under aspen
With the ground wet from fresh rain, I created the other hole for my second rose. Note, when removing from pot, the root ball collapsed. This rose is definitely struggling a bit and the broken root ball is not going to help things. Here is the information from the tag:
Strike It Rich
(cv. WEKbepmey) Deep golden yellow spun with orange-pink. Grandiflora
You are in the money . . . If you love spicy fragrance, loads of bloom and super-long elegant buds of gold polished with rosy pink. The long-lasting sparkling yellow-orange tones are rich and opulent enough to bring out the gold digger in any gardener. But id does not take a stash of expensive chemicals to keep this good lookin’ girl happy in the landscape. The natural disease resistance and strong vigor do the deed. Very dark green leaves and unusual red stems set off the many showy clusters of blossoms. Hit pay dirt with Strike It Rich!
Height/Habit: Medium-tall/upright and bushy
Bloom/Size: Large, double, informal
Petal Count: About 30
Fragrance: Strong sweet spice and fruit
Parentage: ChRiscinn x Mellow Yellow
Comments: ‘Scent-sational’ for a bouquet and ‘beauty-full’ in the landscape.
Hollyhock – Outhouse (Latin: Alcea rosea)
Planted these seeds behind where I buried my little clump of Vinca Major. I purchased these from eBay from Heirlooms R Us Seeds
I threw some of these into the terra cotta pots where I planted some alyssum. These were planted toward the back while blue fax was planted toward the center. I also threw some seeds near the log. These seeds were purchased from Plant World Seeds
Mint from Russia. Planed in the crevices near the juniper
Latin: Nasturtium officinale
Purchased these also from Herilooms R Us. I cannot remember where I put these. I think in the main bed with the clover. It will be interesting to see where it pops up.
Friday, 17 May
This morning I was up bright and early to head downtown to take advantage of the member’s only morning at the gardens. I will create a blog entry dedicated to this but I mention it now to highlight the plants I purchased:
Two Vining Snapdragons
Salvia ‘Christine Yeo’
I also purchased several seeds which I hope to plant soon
The carrot sprouts are emerging so I am very happy the weather will be turning cooler. Other items of note: two days ago, I noticed poppy sprouts and four days ago sweet pea sprouts! Also two days ago, I had one lone daffodil bloom emerge.
Saturday, 19 May
I have a vining plant of some description in the big pot located in the corner of the Adirondack chair seating area. I am thinking perhaps it gets too much sun. It probably is not but still, this prompted me to plant hollyhock seeds around it in hopes of shaded cover. Not stopping there, I planted some around the Viola Odorata as well. One can never have too many hollyhocks planted. I believe I planted more but cannot recall where. I will find out soon enough though.
Curious if the bee balm located in the half whisky barrel where the chamomile is dominating is coming back to life, I moved some leaves where it should be growing and in that area are leaves coming up which look like they could indeed be bee balm. When there are more, I will rub them in the hope I reveal that distinct aroma.
The marjoram sprouts are emerging.The snap dragons are now nestled among the marigolds under the thistle seed feeder. Speaking of which, I am blessed to have gold finches visiting said thistle feeder. I also planted the new marigolds. As mentioned earlier, I decided to move the leaf shaped bird bath to the top area and use it as such as opposed to a planter. I also moved one of the clay gnomes and the before mentioned marigolds were planted at the foot of the gnome.
I rummaged through some boxes and found soil improver along with a lot of old seeds. I spread the optimizer and in a care free fashion, I broadcasted dill, alfalfa, desert bluebells and African daisies in the planted area where the struggling juniper is. This in addition to the copious amount of clover I broadcasted a couple days ago.
I think it is important to include the notes on the dill I planted. The seeds were purchased The Seed Savers Exchange and the name of this variety is Grandma Einck’s Dill. Here is the description on the back:
Grandma Einck’s Dill
Description: Iowa heirloom grown near Festina, Iowa since 1920 by the Einck family (Diane Whealy’s grandmother). Large fragrant heads are great for making dill pickles, spicing up summer salads or as a unique addition to flower bouquets. Foliage is abundant and long lasting. Being permanently maintained at Heritage Farm for its beauty, fragrance and warm memories. Self-Seeding annual.
Despite previous intentions, not only am I leaving the ‘petunia pot’ on the ledge of the planted area under the large aspen but I also added more pots. Filled with compost, I planted all my rock cress seeds (Aubrieta Deltoidea) in these pots along with some bulbs I believe are rain lily bulbs.
This reminds me . . . Yesterday I planted several onion bulbs along with some garlic in the planted area beneath the large aspen. I have a fear of rabbits infiltrating my garden and demolishing my clover patches I am currently enjoying very much. This is one tactic I will begin with to hopefully repel them. Note, I must take care of all the gaps under the fences to prevent them from getting in at all.
Seedlings are emerging from the large pot near the shed. The best part is, I do not know what the seedlings are as it is part of the mix o’ seeds I placed in the middle of the pot. I am anxiously awaiting the Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate Seeds to sprout.
The clover sprouts are emerging in the bed where the struggling juniper is.
Planted some dandelions in the tomato earth boxes and pumpkin seeds in small pots in the greenhouse.
Each day brings something new to behold. Spring has arrived in all its spectacular, miraculous glory. Each moment I am outside communing with my garden I am studying everything looking for new life and I am always filled with joy and amazement at what I see. Until next time, I wish you all the very best and pray your days are blessed.
I leave you now with some images related to all I have written about. 🙂