Around the Island

Gardening with Galligan: Montauk Daisies

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO  |  Those beautiful Montauk daisies in all their glory.
CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | Those beautiful Montauk daisies in all their glory.

Farewell, perennials, as the first frost comes…

But in at least some ways, last can be best and the Montauk Daisy, which does not come from Montauk and is not a daisy, might just be an example of that notion.

The plant sports large, bright white flowers, daisy like, with bright yellow centers. Along with some blue and purple asters, it’s the last of the summer’s perennials, and in mass plantings can be eye-stopping. Although I must say that even one single plant, which is what I have in my garden, is worth having. I am an aster lover, those blues and especially the purples are faves, but that one spray of yellow and white, along with the last of my yellow roses, just hits the spot.

For years, this plant was referred to, botanically speaking, as Chrysanthemum nipponicum, which suggests that its origin was in Japan and indeed, that is the case. More recently, however, Nipponanthemum nipponicum is its chosen classification, but whether it is more daisy or more chrysanthemum won’t really matter much to most gardeners; what does matter is that it’s one terrific perennial.

Montauk daisies (and no, I don’t know how they came to be called that) usually begin blooming in mid-September and continue until a hard frost finally ends their run, which some years can actually be in mid-November. It’s not a fussy plant and needs no special care; it prefers a sandy soil and does insist on full sun. Like all perennials, it prefers even moisture, but unlike many perennials, can withstand some drought. The plant should be cut back after all bloom is ended, right down to the ground, and given a good, heavy mulch.

Plant root clumps or potted plants in spring and for best results pinch stems every few weeks, thereby encouraging dense branches and more profuse bloom. Montauk daisies are not easily divided, so you want each plant to give you the best show possible. Another caveat: by the time of its late summer bloom, often the lower leaves have fallen away. If your plants are in a cutting garden this presents no problem, but if they’re bedded and you care about appearances, they would be best surrounded by some low growing cover.

Both deer and rabbits, at least according to the literature, tend to leave this tough-leaved plant alone. Although as most Shelter Islanders know, what most deer do is not necessarily what our deer do. So the best advice is to proceed with caution.

There’s only one more of my columns before a winter’s rest and since it will be coming out in early December, I thought I might take you to one of the South Fork nurseries where I shop and where the Christmas show is a spectacular one; I don’t know how many elves are involved but since they’ve already agreed to an interview, it looks like we’ll find out.

Happy fall, everyone. Enjoy, as in do not be depressed by, the end of daylight savings time. Early dark only means it’s that much sooner you can put your feet on the hearth, and relax with a cold glass or a hot mug of whatever you like best.

Party on!