As time passes, I have come to regard the euryops daisy as an ornamental plant that no Southern California garden should be without – and not only because the euryops is one of my wife’s favorite plants. Although planted extensively, the euryops happens to be a splendid, spherical, sun-loving shrub that grows 4 to 5 feet tall, with lacy leaves and a capacity to flower nonstop.
It’s not that the euryops daisy is a stunning plant, or gorgeous, or just plain beautiful. In fact, many people would not plant it at all because of its brash, yellow 2-inch-diameter daisies. Yellow is a color that many garden designers seem to avoid, the current fashion favoring salmon, rose, mauve, lavender and violet. They might think our long summer offers enough heat and yellow sunshine; why overdo it with yellow flowers?
However, the virtues of yellow are its qualities of contrast and counterpoint. At this time of year, yellow warms up a cold, moribund garden. At any time, yellow can serve as an accent in a garden where softer, cooler colors – say in the blue to violet range – prevail. When bright yellow flowers grow among more subdued flowers, the latter are highlighted and given a glow that they need in order to be fully appreciated, especially under the dull, sullen skies of winter.
In my own front entry planter, two euryops shrubs grow among less brilliant plants. The euryops are cheek by jowl with Abutilon megapotamicum, a Chinese lantern with dull orange petals and pale red sepals, and Erysimum “Bowles Mauve,” a wallflower with clusters of lilac blooms. Just in front is Polygala dalmaisiana, the sweet pea shrub. The polygala is flowering in pinkish violet, a color the Sunset Western Garden Book calls “hard to handle,” but one that shows up nicely against a background of yellow daisies.
Looking out toward the street, I see light orange roses and violet purple princess flowers in a planter that stretches across the middle of the front yard. The yellow of the euryops is like a beacon that projects onto the orange and purple, bringing these colors – all but invisible in their own right under gray winter skies – to life.
These euryops (Euryops pectinatus “Viridis”) shrubs have another highly desirable quality in ornamental plants – deep, yet luminescent green leaves. As the Latin cultivar name suggests, the color of the foliage is what painters call viridian, a chrome green you associate more with tropical than with dry-climate plants.
This, though, is another contrasting virtue of the euryops. Increasingly, the trend is to plant more drought-tolerant species, most of which have light green, dull green or gray green leaves. But try placing a few euryops plants in a garden of sages, lavenders, artemisias, penstemons and tree mallows. The glowing green, finely cut euryops leaves will handsomely complement the foliage of the other plants, especially the lacy, silvery laminae of the artemisias.
Euryops daisies require a certain amount of attention to look their best and to flower virtually without interruption. As with hybrid roses and other constant bloomers, it is important to remove flowers as soon as they fade. Otherwise, energy that could be used to produce more new flowers will be diverted into the development of seeds (with the faded flowers), and flowering will cease. Also, dead euryops leaves tend to cling to their stems, requiring manual removal when they turn brown.
Euryops daisies do not require much water when established. They are South African in origin and have cultural requirements matching those of other familiar plants – gazanias and geraniums, for example – from that part of the world. The more water they get, the less they flower. During the summer, a good soaking no more than once a week is sufficient. Watering South African – or Mediterranean or Southern California native – plants with spray sprinklers several times a week will lead to root fungus and stem canker diseases, shortening their lives. To lengthen their lives, plant them in sandy soil.
The word euryops comes from two Greek words – “eury,” which means broad or wide, and “ops,” which means eyes. To the inspired namer of plants, some feature of this plant apparently resembles wide eyes, perhaps the flower buds just before they open.
There is a plant sale the first Friday of each month – including this coming Friday – at the West Valley Occupational Center, 6200 Winnetka Ave., in Woodland Hills. The sale is held from 9 a.m. to noon. Exotic plants, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in Los Angeles, are available at reasonable prices.
Tip of the week: Just over a week ago, an enormous Italian stone pine (Pinus pinea) fell over in Sherman Oaks, crushing three cars parked nearby. These trees tend to lean in one direction and, unless pruned to correct the lean, will eventually topple over. If you have such a leaning pine – you can identify this species by the flat top of its canopy – or any leaning tree, for that matter, consult an arborist about pruning it before any damage is done.