“Blue thou art, intensely blue”

Felicia aethiopica, West Coast

Year-round bloom and a compact habit makes the wild aster a peach in all gardens. Bursting into a mass of blue daisies in spring, it doggedly keeps going all the way into winter when deadheaded. No straggly behaviour from this cheerful perennial.

Assigned to the daisy family, Felicia aethiopica is a low shrublet of up to 50 cm high with rigid, leathery leaves. Solitary sky blue flower heads with yellow centres are carried well above the foliage on rough-textured stalks – loved by many small flying insects. Winged for parachute-style wind dispersal, large amounts of small, light fruit are produced.

Also called bloublombossie, this endemic West Coast shrub is drought-, clay- and sand-tolerant. Sow seeds in spring or autumn in sandy loam soil with good drainage. Cover with a light sand dressing and wait with bated breath for germination three weeks later. Side-dress with an annual dose of compost and cut back to 15 cm tall in winter.

For an arresting display, plant the wild aster in rock garden pockets, mixed borders, as edging for taller perennials, filler, ground cover or to sprawl over low garden walls. In a mixed border it works a treat with white Geranium incanum or Helichrysum cymosum.

Ref: inaturalist.org; pza.sanbi.org.