Eriophylum lanatum

22 Jun

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“Oregon sunshine”, “wooly sunflower”, whatever name you choose for this bright little daisy, it never ceases to make me smile when I see its cheerful little flowers.

Native to both sides of the mountains, in drier habitats like open prairies and rocky balds, this is a tough little bugger. All it really needs to do well is something close to full sun and protection from wet roots. As the flowers develop, the silvery wooly foliage does tend to flop a bit, which makes this an interesting pot plant since it likes to cascade over the edge of the pot, but it is something to consider in a rockery or dry border, so it doesn’t smother it’s neighbors.

As you would expect, all kinds of bees and smaller butterflies adore the flowers of these cheerful relatives of daisies and marigolds. I usually try and deadhead them to keep them flowering, but I suspect the seeds would be good for finches and such too.

Propagation by seeds is pretty straight forward as with most composites. You can also take cuttings any time of year you can find a stem, or divide a larger plant if you insist. Division should be done in spring, and be careful to use well draining soil so the plants don’t drown as they recover.

In the prairies, it’s been described to me that they like the “wet spots in the dry prairies”, which in the garden translates into; they will take advantage of water when given, and indeed don’t seem to like drying out too much in a pot, but need good drainage and fairly rich soils to do their best, though fertilizer isn’t usually necessary.

Even when not in flowers, the ferny grey green wooly leaves are attractive. Like asters, they tend to die back to wooly little rosettes in winter, then quickly regenerate in spring into nice little spreading mounds in summer, topped by the bright yellow orange daisies most of early summer.

Forms from eastern Washington and Oregon tend to have larger flowers, so are the more common ones found in nurseries and native plant sales, but they do well in Seattle all the same. Some of the west side forms have a more entire leaf (which is to say, less heavily lobed or simpler), and can be almost like a spreading dusty miller.

This is a charming plant that really deserves more garden space. For dry rockeries or even in hanging baskets, it can make a rather bold statement in flower, and is pretty the rest of the year too.

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