Dwarf Silverleaf Marguerite Daisy
Family: Compositae (Daisy family)
New Year may have dawned, but during January here in the
Pacific Northwest, the sun seems to have trouble
doing the same. Some days it’s hard to tell whether it’s
even bothered to show up. Maybe, we conjecture, it just decided
to stay in Hawaii for the next few weeks. So if you find yourself
craving sunlight, and you aren’t planning a trip to Honolulu
any time soon, perhaps a bit of dreaming about the sun shining
in your garden this coming summer will do the trick.
the color of the cheery flowers brought to you by Anthemis biebersteiniana,
this month’s featured
plant. It was named for Baron Friedrich August Marschall von
Bieberstein, which may explain why it’s sometimes known
as Anthemis marschalliana. Name confusion reigns all
the way up through the family to which this plant belongs:
Compositae, also known as Asteraceae, commonly known as the
Daisy family but sometimes called the Sunflower family. Our
plant is sometimes referred to as the dwarf silverleaf marguerite
daisy, other times as marshall chamomile, or even Marschall
camomile. Don’t confuse it with true chamomile, however,
which used to be named Anthemis nobilis but is now
properly called Chamaemelum nobile. In some quarters, A.
biebersteiniana is even called dog fennel, which is a
true misnomer, since that’s the common name of the noxious
weed, Anthemis cotula.
the Baron remained oblivious to all the modern difficulties
nomenclature. He was born in Germany
in 1768 but when he was a young man, he left his native land
to seek adventure in more exotic climes. In 1792, he entered
military service in Russia and spent a great deal of time in
the Crimea and the Caucasus. It was while exploring this uncharted
territory—taking a few trips to Siberia along the way—that
he indulged his interest in botany by gathering more than 8,000
previously uncategorized plants. One of them is the low-growing,
mounding perennial that bears his name.
Anthemis biebersteiniana—and that’s the
name we’ll use from this point forward—is a scrappy
little plant with a sweet appearance that belies its hardy
nature. Remember that A. biebersteiniana harkens from
a mountainous region with harsh winters and long, dry summers.
It adapts well to our Pacific Northwest climate. In Colorado,
it is applauded as a xeric specimen, one that puts on a show
without requiring supplemental water once established. This
bit of information is worth remembering as we face the possibility
of another dry summer in Washington State. Even if our rainfall
and snow pack return to their normally high levels, we’re
all learning to respect water as a dwindling resource, one
not to be used unthinkingly.
The Baron’s little plant grows perhaps a foot tall and
spreads a little wider. The foliage is feathery but not fragile,
with a pleasant aroma. You’re likely to catch a hint
of it when you brush against the leaves. Silvery green and
slightly fuzzy, they’re a wonderful foil for the clear
yellow, daisy-like flowers that appear in late spring and linger
into summer. They rise on sturdy stems that make them fine
specimens for cutting.
Anthemis biebersteiniana looks
best when massed at the front of the border or used as a
ground cover. No pests
bother it and it doesn’t seem to be prone to diseases.
It thrives in full sun and poor soil, but it cannot tolerate
a site with poor drainage. Another word of caution: A.
biebersteiniana should be cut off at ground level after
flowering. It’s bound to leave holes for a time, right
where they’re most visible, until the new foliage emerges. Anthemis
biebersteiniana tends to be short-lived, too, so if it
proves to be to your liking, prepare to divide it often. That’s
the only way to propagate it successfully.
The rest of the huge Compositae (or Asteraceae, as you prefer)
family will have to wait for other articles. There are enough
genera and species to fill many pages. The Anthemis genus
alone is fascinatingly varied. A. tinctoria—the
marguerites—offer an assortment of attractive white-to-yellow
flowers, many of which blend with everything you could possibly
have in your garden. This spring, be on the lookout for Anthemis ‘Sauce
Hollandaise,’ with its fabulous blooms reminiscent of
softly poached eggs. They’re a feast for the eyes.