|Diascia fetcaniensis "African Queen"|
|Berkheya macrocephala amid the poppies|
This has also been a stellar year for diascias, D. rigescens is absolutely spectacular right now. Even though it makes a perfectly good annual from seeds started early indoors, it is even better after it survives a winter. The plants are so laden with flowers that they have bent down from the weight, but the flower spikes continue to grow upwards anyway. D. fetacaniensis "African Queen" is a more subtle plant, the plants grown last year from seed from Chilterns have formed nice mats of tiny leaves with loads of delicate flowers hovering just above the foliage. D. anastrepta from Silverhill is similar, but with glossier leaves and a distinctive yellow spot in the flower. I do hope they offer seed of it again sometime, as I have only one plant and it will not set seed on its own (though perhaps it might hybridize with the others, the results could be quite interesting).
Senecios are wonderful daisies, and South Africa has several nice purple flowered ones in addition to the expected yellow sorts. S. polyodon is reliable even in harsh winter years, and produces myriads of small purple flowers well above the rosettes of foliage. Individual plants live a few years, but it is always good to have some coming along from seed (they will self sow in favorable conditions) because they don't last forever. Senecio macrocephalus is a shorter plant with much broader leaves in tight rosettes. The individual flowers are much larger than S. polyodon and it starts blooming earlier. Many seeds are produced by this plant and it will self sow and germinate the same season if rainfall is sufficient.
Helichrysum splendidum has nice linear grey foliage, and is a vigorous plant. It sprawls so it needs to occupy some space, and in good years where winter dieback is not severe it produces many clusters of small yellow strawflowers. I am expecting good seed set this year as several different clones of it are blooming right now.
Berkheya is a cool genus utterly unlike anything in the northern hemisphere that I am aware of, I call them thistle daisies. An apt description as they are often prickly but bear large daisy type flowers. Most are yellow, but B. purpurea is an unusual shade of blue purple. It is recently becoming established in cultivation in the US (and in the UK) and is proving winter hardy. My small colony of them is increasing from self sown seeds that came up this spring from what seeds I missed harvesting last year. It will bloom the first year if started early, but will do so much earlier in the season once it has gone through a winter. B. macrocephala is a more typical yellow flowered sort, but is not as prickly as its breathern. One of about 4 plants is blooming for the first time this June, it is hard to see the white felted leaf bottoms of the plant as its flowers rise up to mingle with the numerous corn poppies in bloom at the same time.
Kniphofia northiae is worth growing for it foliage alone, but this year three plants have flowered, all at different times with no overlap. The first one that flowered was one of the ones by the wall, I am now harvesting the numerous seeds it produced. The second one flowered when we were having the rainy spell, it did not set seed. This third plant, which like the second is in the unprotected slope garden, is about to bloom so it should go into July. This species is easy from seed and I have enjoyed watching the enormous starfish like rosettes get bigger and bolder each year, and now am finally enjoying their flowers as well.