The National Garden Bureau has done it again.
Even before the frost has settled on this year's garden, they have gone about the task of announcing their picks for next season's ''Year of the...'' series. I barely have my garden journal wrapped up for 2012 and now I am already turning the page to 2013. Did you notice that I'm smiling?
Part of what gets me through the winter / cold / rain / snow season is the thought of next season's garden and the experts at the National Garden Bureau never fail in their encouragement of gardening as the number one past time. Three seasons of the year, we work hard to prepare, plant and grow, but during the fourth season, we can step back from all the hard work and start a new plan.
Each year the professional horticulture industry selects one flower, one vegetable and one perennial to be showcased the entire year. For 2013, the National Garden Bureau has announced it will be the year of the Gerbera Daisy, the year of the watermelon and the year of the wildflower. All three of these choices were determined by a group of experts in the horticultural field because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse and versatile.
Today I'd like to focus on the Gerbera Daisy. Like the common daisy and hundreds of relatives, this plant is a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae.
My first order of business is to teach all of you how to pronounce the name of this plant. It is not - I can't stress this enough - the Gerbera Daisy is not in any way related to a popular brand name baby food. There is an ''a'' at the end of the word, so those of you who always call this flower the ''Gerber Daisy,'' stop it! How hard is it to add that little ''uh'' at the end of the word Gerbera. Pronounce it ''gur-bur-uh.''
The history of the Gerbera Daisy began in South Africa. While we may not have seen this plant in our mother's gardens, the genus Gerbera was first classified in 1737. It was named for a German naturalist by the name of Traugott Gerber. Gerber was a friend of Carolus Linnaeus, the guy behind all the Latinized names we give to plants to determine one from the other.
Our Gerbera Daisies are likely crosses between two of the wild varieties that were native to South Africa, Gerbera jamesonii and Gerbera viridifolia. Gerbera jamesonii was discovered by its namesake, Robert Jameson, a Scotsman who discovered the plant while exploring Barberton, South Africa, where his company was mining for gold.
Plant breeders went wild in the 1800s, crossing and re-crossing varieties of Gerberas, but the practice slowed considerably when the world was at war. It wasn't until the 1970s that horticulturalists began breeding Gerberas as both bedding plants and potted plants.
The striking feature of Gerbera Daisies is the colors. While the more common daisies are usually white, except for their cousins, black-eyed Susans and coneflowers, Gerbera Daisies can be found in all sorts of vibrant colors including pink, orange, yellow, gold, white, red, cream and even bi-colors. They can be found as single flowers with two layers of petals, or as semi-doubles, doubles and even spider flowers with more narrow and pointed petals.
Semi-doubles are used mostly as cut flowers. According to the National Garden Bureau's statistics, Gerbera Daisies are the fifth most used cut flower in the world. The first four are rose, carnation, chrysanthemum and tulip.
If you must have their vibrant colors throughout a dreary winter, pick up a bouquet or two from your local florist. During the summer growing season, Gerberas do well in containers. They prefer a slightly acid soil. If your Gerbera Daisies begin to show black patches on their lower leaves, you might want to feed it with a low PH fertilizer.
Always pot your daisies in a container with drainage holes and let them dry out a bit between watering to avoid root rot. Be sure to water often enough, however, to avoid severe wilting.