The Japanese Flower From Japan

Montauk daisies

That is literally what the Latin name Nipponanthemum nipponicum translates to in English. I would like to imagine that the botanists who named this plant has a wicked sense of humor. Latin name aside, this week’s plant is a new plant for me and one that I “discovered” after moving to coastal Maine. We live in East Bootbay, a block from the East Boothbay General Store. Right after we moved into our home in September of 2012, we took many trips to the General Store for breakfast until we got our home unpacked. I remember the first time we walked up to the store, I saw a plant that looked like a Pittosporum tobira, growing alongside of Route 96. This shrubby plant was about 3′ wide and tall. I immediately wanted to know what it was and whether or not it would be hardy in our USDA zone 6 climate.

I took a picture of the plant with my iPhone and showed it to my new co-workers at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. They immediately said it was a “Montauk daisy.” Soon thereafter, in early October, the plant at the General Store was covered with white, daisy flowers. What a tough and beautiful plant for an autumn display. I asked more folks why this plant was not used more here along the coast and they just shrugged their shoulders. “Maybe it is used too much around Cape Cod,” was one response. So maybe that was it; much like the overused red-tipped Photinia in the south, these daisies had fallen out of favor in coastal New England.

Nipponanthemum nipponicum

Well, I for one, think from a design standpoint, they are gorgeous plants. The large, rounded leaves along with the beautiful, white flowers make for a fantastic combination. Montauk daisy was one of the parents that horticultural legend Luther Burbank used to produce the famous Shasta daisy. He hybridized several daisies first, not achieving the plant he was hoping to get. After selecting some hybrids, he then crossed these with Nipponanthemum nipponicum. One of these crosses resulted in the Shasta daisy. Shasta daisies are nice but I recall them seeding around quite a bit when I lived in the south. Montauk daisy is more of a shrub form with smaller flowers than Shastas but still gorgeous. They are pretty tough plants, hardy from USDA zones 5-9 and tolerant of full-sun and drought once established.

When you see a Montauk daisy, what are your initial thoughts? As someone who never saw the plants until now, am I crazy for thinking that they are quite spectacular?

– Rodney

Images: Land Perspectives, A Garden For All

 

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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6 Comments

  1. Debbie Feely on November 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I wonder how these do in the heat? Shasta daisies wilt every day all summer.

    • rodneyeason on November 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Good question, Debbie. I never saw them in the south so I do not know.

  2. claire jones on November 26, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Rochelle
    I love these Daisies and like you said they are quite unusual. I call them the Nippon Daisy and the foliage is wonderful and almost succulent like. It is not a well know plant.

    • rodneyeason on November 26, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks, Claire!

  3. Richard Warner on November 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Definitely not crazy. On the contrary, the Montauk is indeed spectacular. I love the structure of the plant and the foliage form. We’re very fond of daisies, and have Oxeye daisies all round our garden in summer, which have a very similar flower. Of course they’ve all gone for the winter now, so we scatter the sculpted daisies we make around instead to cheer up the garden until spring!

    • rodneyeason on November 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Good to know, Richard!

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