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!