Argyranthemum

These half-hardy plants will brighten up summer borders and patios, says Miranda Kimberley.

Argyranthemum gracile 'Chelsea Girl' AGM - image: Cross Common Nursery
Argyranthemum gracile 'Chelsea Girl' AGM - image: Cross Common Nursery

Argyranthemum, or marguerites as they are commonly known, is a genus of frost-hardy to half-hardy evergreen sub-shrubs that are most frequently used in summer bedding or grown in patio pots. A typical marguerite produces white daisies with yellow centres and has finely divided green or glaucous foliage.

These white-flowered plants are commonly derived from one of two species - A. frutescens, a low-growing shrub, and A. foeniculaceum, a taller species with more glaucous leaves. But white is not the only colour available. Argyranthemum flowers can also be yellow or pink.

All 24 species of Argyranthemum are found in Macronesia, which includes the Azores, Canary Islands, Cape Verde Isles, the Savage Islands and Madeira. In the wild they are under threat - 22 out of 24 of the species were on the Red List in 1997. But in cultivation they are thriving as a staple summer bedding plant and they are also grown as larger specimens for patio pots and borders, some as standards.

There are a few other species from which marguerites are bred including A. maderense, which has lovely lemon-yellow flowers that are large with darker yellow centres. There is also A. gracile - the elegant marguerite - which has distinctive needle-like foliage. A. 'Chelsea Girl' Award of Garden Merit (AGM) was bred from this parent.

Marguerites tend to be considered tender perennials in the UK, though growers in the South West say they can last through a mild winter. Therefore it is recommended that plants are either treated as summer bedding or, if larger, brought into the cool greenhouse or conservatory during the winter months.

Not surprisingly, considering where they hail from, they generally like a position in full sun and to be planted in well-drained, poor to moderately-fertile soil. However, the species A. frutescens is said to prefer partial shade and moist soil.

Argyranthemum have a long flowering season, from May until November, so it is necessary to deadhead regularly. A light all-over trim after each major flower flush will encourage new growth and more blooms. When the plants are producing lots of vegetative growth, it is worth tip pruning to produce a more compact, bushy plant.

Plants left in the garden or overwintered in pots become woody at the base with age but new growth is put on every spring. They tend to look past their best after about three years, but gardeners can persist if they like them and want larger plants.

WHAT THE SPECIALISTS SAY

- Kevin Bosustow, manager, Cross Common Nursery, Cornwall

"They all seem to be selling - both the older varieties as well as the newer varieties such as the Madeira Series, which are compact and free-flowering plants in a mix of colours. The bright red form is selling particularly well. A. 'Cornish Gold' AGM is a nice bright yellow one. Then there are the old favourites A. 'White Spider' and A. Cherry Love (Daisy Crazy Series).

"Customers go for Argyranthemum because they have a long flowering period. Last winter the harsh weather meant that many were lost in Cornish gardens but until then they could be grown here outside all year, providing colour for most of the year.

"Two that seemed hardier than others and kept going were A. foeniculaceum 'Royal Haze' AGM and A. 'Chelsea Girl' AGM. They are fairly low-maintenance plants. They like a sunny position in free-draining soil and should be deadheaded regularly."

- Eva Aldridge, partner, Asterby & Chalkcroft Nurseries, Bedfordshire

"It's an easy plant for the summer. When it's not too cold they can pull through year after year. Though not last year, as we saw particularly low temperatures. It has the advantage over Osteospermum that plants keep flowering and the flowers do not close up. They are trouble-free plants.

"When it comes to the customer choosing a variety it depends whether they like single or double flowers. They might take into account that the older varieties tend to be taller, too. One example is A. 'Jamaica Snowstorm', which is three-feet tall, with white flowers and grey-green leaves.

"Then there is A. 'Vancouver' AGM, whose flowers graduate from pale to darker pink. Some of these tall older varieties are used to create standards.

"Breeders have been concentrating on producing smaller, compact varieties, which are at maximum two-foot tall. We grow a handful of the newer varieties - A. 'Starlight', A. 'Dana' and A. Butterfly AGM."

- Craig Champness, assistant planteria manager, Squire's Garden Centres, West Horsley

"They are popular plants - good for the patio. We have sold quite a few already. In the planteria all they need is full sun, regular watering and feeding - with a liquid feed. They should be deadheaded because more flowers will come.

"We sell larger and smaller varieties alongside each other. We tend to get in larger specimens of marguerites and display them in blocks. We market them as patio plants, offered in large terracotta plastic pots. We also sell one-litre pots for customers' tubs. We don't sell standards."

SPECIES AND CULTIVARS

A. Butterfly 'Ulyssis' AGM produces canary-yellow flowers throughout the summer. This variety is particularly heat-tolerant and needs less dead-heading than others.

A. Cherry Love (Daisy Crazy Series) has deep red-cherry flowers. This variety has a good compact habit.

A. 'Cornish Gold' AGM produces a mass of yellow flowers from April to October, above soft green foliage. Looks good on the patio.

A. foeniculaceum, known as the lance-leaf marguerite, has glaucous leaves and white flowers with yellow centres, similar to an ox-eye daisy. Good in containers and borders. Height: 90cm.

A. foeniculaceum 'Royal Haze' AGM is believed to have finer foliage than the species.

A. frutescens, the standard marguerite daisy, has white flowers and fresh divided leaves. It is low-growing with fleshy green stems.

A. gracile 'Chelsea Girl' AGM has thin needle-like foliage and small, single white flowers with yellow centres. Has an upright habit and grows quite tall.

A. 'Jamaica Primrose' AGM has large flowers, with pale yellow ray florets surrounding deeper yellow disc florets. Height and spread: 1m.

A. 'Julieanne' has reddish-pink flowers with double yellow centres and dissected grey-green leaves.

A. maderense AGM is a pale yellow flowered species with large single flowers and dark green leaves. Grows up to one metre tall.

A. 'Mary Cheek' AGM has soft pink double flowers above finely-cut foliage.

A. 'Mary Wootton' has somewhat coarse green leaves over which are carried white double flowers with a pale yellow centre, surrounded by a ruff of pale pink petals. Flowers profusely from late spring to early autumn. Height and spread: 75cm.

A. 'Mrs F Sander' has double white flowers and glaucous divided foliage. Forms neat bushes of around two feet high and across.

A. 'Petite Pink' AGM has soft pink single flowers above finely cut foliage.

A. 'Summer Melody' (PBR) is a variety with small pink pom-pom flowers. Bred in eastern Australia by Mal Morgan, it is a compact and handsome plant, perfect for a container. Height and spread: 70cm.

A. 'Vancouver' AGM has grey-green leaves and double anemone-like flowers, which are shaded light and dark pink. Height and spread: 1m.

A. 'White Spider' has double white flowers with green foliage. Thrives in full sun. Height: 1m.


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