Tom Parkinson's monthly column, introducing the diverse range of flora and fauna on show at Sanctuary Lakes.

Without doubt the most common plant to be seen in Sanctuary Lakes is the simple Daisy, it seems to have captured the very essence of the gardens and gardeners of our Resort. The Daisy belongs to the Asteraceae family, arguably the largest plant family in the world, comprising over 25,000 species covering 1000 genera. They appear on every continent on earth except Antarctica and of course Australia has its own stunning native Daisies.

Like much of Nature, something that you see at first glance and which you thought was just a common simple flower becomes a lot more complex and fascinating when you start ‘unearthing’ the facts. If nothing else, the Daisy’s vast worldwide family gives credence to the idea ‘that you can't judge a book by its cover’.

Daisy May Leucanthemum clearly showing the two florets

To start with the Daisy family used to be known as 'Compositae' because what looks like a single Daisy flower is actually a composite head of many flowers. Each flower head is actually made up of two different types of flowers. Around the edge of the flower head are florets that look like petals, but are in fact small individual flowers known as 'ray florets'. In the centre of the head are a multitude of minute flowers known as 'disc florets' that open in concentric rings. It is within these tiny flowers that the stamens and pollen are to be found by visiting insects in search of a rich feed of nectar and assist the floret petals in pollination.

Both types of florets can produce seeds, thereby giving each flower head the means to produce a multitude of seeds. The practical consequence of this complex floral structure is that Daisies are capable of producing vast amounts of seed which can then be easily and simply dispersed by wind.

We can take advantage of this in our gardens by allowing the plants to go to seed and be dispersed in a random fashion such that they germinate in situ and create a wildflower meadow effect that can be seen in many Sanctuary Lake’s gardens. It is easy to understand why Daisies are so quickly propagated. They grow well from seed and also most species, can be readily grown out from small tip cuttings.

On the other hand, this rather promiscuous behaviour can be a problem as some species can be invasive. If you're worried about that, simply cut the old flower heads before they have a chance to run to seed.

Sanctuary Lakes gardens display a large array of different Daisy species. Let’s take a closer look at the more popular with a couple of Aussie natives and another couple from South Africa.

Australian Daisy Brachyscome

The aptly named Australian Daisy from the Asteraceae sub family Brachyscome has the stunning ability for its flowers to range in colour from mauve and purple to pinks, whites and lemon. These colour bursts occur throughout the year with the major flushes occurring in Spring and Summer. A tip for gardeners who are growing Australian Daisies they should remove the spent flower heads to encourage new ones and the plant will benefit from pruning in late Spring. With minimal care the Aussie Daisy is a prolific flowerer and is a beautiful addition to any garden.

Federation Daisy Argyranthemum

Federation Daisies are Australian-bred Marguerite daisies. Easily recognisable for their compact shape, long flowering, appealing colours including white, lemon yellow, pink and carmine. They have a natural range of flower styles, from single to the slightly larger petals anemone form. They also have pest-resistant foliage making them low-care plants. These daisies grow as sprawling shrubs (around 60 centimetres high and up to one metre wide), but can be trained or planted as an informal hedge. They grow rapidly and can make a warm welcome to a Sanctuary Lakes garden.

African Daisy Osteospermum asteraceae

No prizes for guessing where these exotic beauties originate. But in Sanctuary Lakes, the popular African Daisies have proven to be just as tough, easy to grow and gorgeous looking as they are in their South African homeland.

African daisies look a lot like common daisies, with petals radiating around a central disk. They are from the Asteraceae family, but the vivid colouring is not at all like the classic Daisy, in fact at first glance you would think the petal colours must have been dyed. The centre disks of the flowers often look as though they are sprayed with a soft metallic paint. Like most Daisies, their petals can be smooth and flat or radiate out in a tubular, spoon-shape. The leaves will also vary. They can be a mixture 0f lance-like or broadly ovate and smooth, toothed, or lobed.

The funky coloured blooms peak in late spring/early summer and again in late summer/early fall. With their complementary foliage, they guarantee colour in the garden.

Gazania or Treasure Flower Gazania rigens

Strangely this South African Native, the Gazania Daisy is named after a 15th-century Greek-Italian scholar Theodorus of Gaza. Its flowers have a wide variety of ‘look-atme’ colours and patterns that simply makes your garden burst with happiness. The colour spectrum of Gazania is primarily towards the warm end, showcasing bright yellows, oranges, or reds with splashes of hot pinks. Gazania Flowers which are capable of stretching 10cms across will grow on single straight stems above the foliage and sometimes bloom in combinations of colours. One habit which makes Gazania different from other daisies is that Gazania blooms are only open during the day. At night, and even on stormy or overcast days, blossoms are held tightly closed.

The simplicity of a daisy flower ensures that it will always remain amongst the world’s most recognisable of garden flowers where it can be easily grown in any style or size of garden. They are a beacon to most, if not all, forms of beneficial insect life as their shape is the perfect landing platform on which a butterfly or bee can easily spot from afar.