This is cineraria, the glorious purple daisy that grows in Bay Area gardens near the coast. I let it have this bed that every spring for the mass of color it makes. It is especially nice on foggy mornings, radiently purple, white, pink, and blue.I also like the fact that the centers of the daisies are purple.
When I first learned about this plant I had no idea how special it was to the Bay Area. Turns out that right here, in our foggy region, is the only place it is a perennial in the entire nation. The cool foggy days and the cold nights, the near lack of frost, and the dry summers remind it of home.
And where is home? On the steep north coast of an island in the Canaries, just off the northwest coast of Africa. Here, a cold ocean breeze blows most of the time, The place is foggy much of the time, has less rain than we do, and that only in winter, but rarely has frosts. It is called the "cloud zone."
Well, strictly speaking, the plants we grow don't grow there. The ones that grow there are species; ours are hybrids among several Canary Island species. The florists use them to make short plants with broad heads of flowers, used as potted gift plants. But when those plants make seed, they soon revert to the tall plants with many shades of flowers that we see in our gardens. The hybrids were first bred in the early 1800s. When they arrived in California, I don't know for sure, but probably as soon as the seeds hit the ground, they knew this was a second home.
Like many people, I really like the blue ones. I am always looking for clues in the leaves to guess which ones will be blue. But the truth is, I like all of them, so I don't try too hard.
I suppose, because they are so easy, they have a bad reputation as being a flower of abandoned gardens, but they can be reined in and left to make a spring garden glorious. They do make some seedlings. If I don't have enough where I want them, I dig seedlings and move them there. Some of them go into pots to move to the front door when they are in bloom. If a seedling is in a place where a spring accent would be nice, I leave it alone.
As these flowers bloom, sections of the flowers start to make seed. I deadhead these as they form, leaving the parts that are in bloom or bud still. When the bloom is spent, I cut the plants to the ground. They start to grow in the fall, and bloom again in April-June. Some people pull them out after they bloom, but they will get bigger with more flowers each year if you just cut them back.
If you don't have any, you can buy a couple of florist's plants in colors you like and leave them outside when the fluffy seeds form. Or you may be able to find the taller ones in nurseries as Cineraria stellata. Actually, the botanists want us to use their new botanical name: Pericallis x hybrida, but no one knows them as that.
This is one of the 50 historic California plants I wrote about in my book Wildly Successful Plants: Northern California.