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.
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?