How to grow Bellis (bel-lis)
From the Latin bellus, pretty, handsome (Compositae). The double daisy, a garden variety of one of our commonest wild plants, was cultivated in Elizabethan gardens side by side with double forms of the native buttercup. The original name was `day’s eye’ as the little plant opened or closed according to the light. Species cultivated B. perennis, the common daisy, 3-6 inches, white, April onwards. A native plant also widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia Minor. A weed, but the parent of many cultivated forms. B. rotundifolia caerulescens, 3 inches, a tiny white daisy tinted with pale blue, a native of Algeria. B. sylvestris, 4-6 inches, daisies with yellow discs and bright red surrounding florets, Mediterranean area.
Cultivated double daisies include many named forms of the double daisy, Bellis perennis fore pleno. At least a dozen forms or strains are obtainable with more or less .of crimson in their colouring and varying also in size and doubling of the flowers and petal formation. In most of these the golden ‘eye’ is eliminated. All grow about 6 inches tall and their neatness and ability to produce large quantities of flowers makes them most useful in spring-bedding schemes. An uncommon but interesting form is the ‘Hen and Chickens Daisy’ which has secondary flower heads surrounding the main one. Cultivation The double forms of B. perennis are very hardy herbaceous perennials which do not demand special soil or garden aspect. They may be raised from seed sown in a frame in March, or old plants may be divided in June, the pieces quickly making new plants if placed in a shaded bed of prepared soil.
Both B. rotundifolia caerulescens and B. sylvestris are suitable for the rock garden where they must have a sheltered position and a free draining soil. The former may need winter protection.