Thursday, January 19, 2006

Past Favourites : Osteospermum

We awoke to a light skiff of snow this morning, so maybe there is more winter yet. So while I'm already dreaming about this year's garden, there is time to reminisce about last year's, and some of my "favourites". One that took me by surprise is a light purple osteospermum, apparently from the "Soprano" series. I was given a small rooted shoot of this plant from a gardening friend, Cathy, along with a number of other offsprings and garden extras she was kind enough to share with me.

Although our local garden center sells osteospermums as "annuals", these natives to the cape of South Africa (also known as African Daisies or Cape Daisies) are actually tender perennials, and in Vancouver, continue as a lush evergreen mat in the garden throughout winter. The photo at right shows my osteospermum in early summer (along with a yellow-blooming sedum spathulifolium "Capa Blanca"), having established itself as a small plant on a sunny slope. By the end of the growing season, it had produced a dense mat a full 3' across, with dozens of purple flowers. Each new shoot roots itself as the mat spreads, so it is easy to reach down, clip and share shoots with friends.

What endeared this plant to me is its "moodiness". On overcast days or evenings, the flowers remain closed. Only on sunny days, it opens to reveal the dark purple disk or eye in the center. It makes a good cut flower, and the leaves form a great low-growing groundcover which even the most persistent weeds would not interfere with (alas, I admit to my other interest in this plant!). I have already traded one friend for a dark purple osteospermum, and this year, hope to add a number of other colours to my collection. I encourage you to try it out, too.

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