Swan River daisyBotanical name: Brachycome...

PLANT NOTEBOOK

October 19, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher

Swan River daisy

Botanical name: Brachycome iberidifolia

Pronunciation: bra-kee-KO-mee

Family: Compositae (Aster)

Origin: Australia

Class: Annual

Display period: All summer

Height: 12 to 24 inches

Environment: Sun

I wish I could remember what there was about the Swan River daisy that intrigued me and prompted me to order seeds the first time I noticed the plant listed in a catalog. Perhaps it was the varietal name, Blue Splendor, or the flowers, described as intensely bright and blooming profusely for months on end.

I filled a 14-inch-tall container with seedlings, never dreaming the aster-styled blossoms were only half an inch wide. But their small size didn't matter; as a mass of vivid color showered over the side of the pot and almost reached the floor of the terrace, the flowers held their own with the likes of zinnias and roses.

Although the Swan River daisy was taken to England as early as 1843 for raising in hothouses, it had to wait until the mid-1980s for commercial growers in this country to take an interest in it. Plants are offered mostly in hanging baskets, since their cascading nature and fine, feathery foliage suit them to that form of display. Not all varieties, however, are as showy as Blue Splendor.

Besides blue (the hue is better described as a sort of amethyst shade), brachycome comes in white and pink. It gets its name from the Greek brachys, for short, and kome, for hair, as some parts of the plant exhibit a bristly growth. Its popular name derives from the flower's native habitat along the banks of the Swan River in Australia, where it first came to notice.

I liked brachychome so well I grew it again this year, only this time I used it as edging for pots. Plants under the light shade of a woven awning that admits light, rain and air, fared better -- still blooming at the end of September -- than those out in the open -- snuffed out weeks earlier from the merciless pounding of the summer heat and sun. The Swan River daisy can't take much moisture stress; under high temperatures, it requires heavy watering. However, under ordinary circumstances, too much water and fertilizer produce greater vegetative growth and fewer flowers.

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