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23 Jun 2020

Winter chill starting to bite? Never fear, it’s Paper Daisy sowing time!

From mid-May to early June is the optimum time to begin sowing the Australian Botanic Garden’s famed Paper Daisy displays. This is the perfect time of year for seed germination, yielding the best results possible where the mild autumn days are almost gone but the soil temps are still warm and ideal for high percentage seed germination results, just before winter really bites!


Sow the seed too early and you run the risk of rapid germination and heat stress with an undeveloped root system from the occasional warm autumn day that could still occur. Sow the seed too late once the winter starts to bite and you run the risk of poor seed germination results and stunted growth when the first frosts start to bite.   

Prepare

Preparation begins in April by removing the old summer displays and weeds. The beds are then prepared with a rotary hoe, ‘fluffing’ up the beds creating a raised and deep soil profile that creates the perfect ‘seed bed’ allowing for deep root growth and water penetration.

We add some slow release organic native fertiliser and wetting agents at this point for both soil conditioning and plant food to sustain the display through the growing season, as well as water penetration. The beds are then left fallow (left for a period without being sown in order to restore its fertility) for a small period allowing for the soil surface and soil ameliorants to settle.

Protect

Purpose built structures are built prior to sowing to prevent birds and animals including ducks, kangaroos and rabbits from eating the seedlings. These structures, covered with bird netting, are kept over the display until the Paper Daisies are in bud, usually just before the beginning of spring.

Seed mix

The main species we use for the Paper Daisy display is Rhodanthe chlorocephala ssp Rosea (Pink Everlastings) and Schoenia filifolia ssp subulifolia (Yellow Everlastings). These are usually combined with a seed raising mix and then spread at a rate of 2-3 grams per square metre.

In the home garden you would be combining 2-3 grams in half a 10 litre bucket of soil mix to then cover 1 square metre on the ground. Mix the seed in a good quality seed raising, potting mix or coir fibre mixed with a coarse sand. This helps give the mix some weight when spreading the seed mix along with a good moist growing medium to help germinate the seed.  
       
As pictured below, we utilise a tractor and commercial soil mixing machine at the Australian Botanic Garden’s Nursery to assist in the mixing as we are covering around 1000 sq. metres of annual display. However, you can easily mix the seed by hand with a shovel and bucket for small to medium quantities at home.

Once mixed, the seed mix is then spread across the previously prepared bed to create a nice even coverage. The seed is then spread using a soft throwing action. This ensures a consistent and even display with a high germination percentage.  

Soil quality

It is crucial at this point to water in the seed mix immediately but not letting the water run-off the surface. The bed must be kept moist, but not wet, until germination (usually around 5-7 days) and the soil surface must not dry out at any point otherwise you will get patchy germination. Once the seed has germinated, keep the display watered every 2-3 days to maintain soil surface moisture.

This should be maintained until the display flowers go into bud, usually a few weeks out from spring, i.e. mid-August. The watering can then be reduced unless an early hot spring is predicted!  A few weeks out from germination, a light liquid fertiliser can be introduced, and this can be maintained every 2-3 weeks until flowering to ensure vigour, growth and flower colour.     
 
Happy sowing and we hope you visit our Paper Daisy display this spring.

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