Gazania hybrids

Gazania growing on Bondi Beach cliff-top walk

Gazania is a very drought-resistant South Africa perennial daisy, which forms an effective groundcover in hot, dry positions (ht 20-30 cm). Starting from late winter and continuing on sometimes throughout summer, the plants are smothered in big jazzy flowers for a long period. The flowers (which stay closed in dull weather) come in colours of pinks, cerise and white as well as a range of hotter tints such as burnt orange, glowing red, bronze, mahogany, apricot and tawny gold that are some of the most vibrant in the plant world. Sometimes the flowers have striking black bands around their centres; some varieties have a double formation of petals. The flowers are held above a carpet of attractive slender foliage: green on top and silver beneath, or all silver in some cases. There are some named forms and series, but most of those growing in our gardens have no identifiable name - I usually refer to them by whoever gave them to me, with 'Ann's pale yellow' and 'Grandma's pink' being special favourites!

Unusual double Gazania growing in the garden of Kerry Mitchell in Sydney

The plants can tumble down dry banks or over retaining walls, and a mixture of different colours grown together can form a low-maintenance Persian rug effect between shrubs in any dry, sunny spot. They are excellent choices for seaside gardens as they grow well in sandy soil. They are pretty enough for a warm-climate cottage-style garden with Pelargonium, lavenders, spring-flowering shrubs such as diosma (Coleonema species) and may bush (Spiraea cantoniensis), and bulbs; but also fit into more arid-looking gardens with succulents, Phormium and Coprosma. I also think they blend in nicely with some of the bolder Australian native flora, such as big brush-flowered Grevillea, kangaroo paws and grasses such as Lomandra and Dianella, because of their 'dry' look.

They sometimes exhaust themselves after a few years - it is a good idea to propagate your favourite ones every so often from a rooted side piece. They appear to be bothered by no pests or diseases. They may self-seed, so this needs to be watched out for in areas near bush reserves.

Flowers in August, September, October, November, December.

 Out now in my Sydney Garden.