The flowers of plants in the daisy family (Asteraceae) are enormously varied. Not only do some have no ray petals at all, with nothing but a disc remaining, but some are the opposite: the flower is packed with petals. And in the majority that retain their ray petals we see a range of intriguing shapes.
One of the most interesting, especially for those of us who like to cut flowers for the house, is the development that has created fluted or quilled petals – each flat petal is rolled into a tube. In cactus dahlias, for example, the whole petal is rolled; in spoon chrysanthemums, most of the petal is rolled leaving a slightly concave tip. These fascinating shapes are often best appreciated at close quarters, in a vase, for example.
Amongst annuals, a number of pot marigolds, Calendula, have completely quilled petals including the fully double ‘Orange Porcupine’ and the much older variety, ‘Radio’. These are lovely in combination with bronze-coloured foliage, for example certain coleus (Solenostemon). My favourites amongst the annuals are ‘Sea Shells’ cosmos. The petals are so wide that when formed into a tube you can see inside and often the inside is a darker shade the outside. ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Pied Piper’ are similar and all are usually seen as mixtures of colours although individual colours are sometimes listed.
In the ‘Chim Chiminee' rudbeckias, the semi-double flowers with their quilled petals come in lovely autumnal tones of bright yellow, rusty orange bronze and deep mahogany. All the cactus dahlias have quilled or fluted petals but more striking than those is the single flowered ‘Honka’, usually with just seven petals which, the opposite of spoon chrysanths, are more rolled towards the tips than the base.
In perennials, hardy spoon chrysanthemums include ‘Little Dorrit’ and ‘Starlet’ both in peachy tones and, like the cosmos, usually with the outside of the tube paler than the inside.
The creamy yellow perennial Coreopsis ‘Pinwheel’ and the bright yellow ‘Jethro Tull’, both with honeyed eyes, have petals like a ring of little trumpets although in ‘Pinwheel’ there is a tendency for the petals of some flowers not to be quilled.
Other perennials in the same style include the pink Echinacea ‘Quills and Thrills', Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’ with magenta pink tubes and red-throated yellow trumpets and the slender tubes of the bright yellow Rudbeckia ‘Little Henry’.
All these intriguing flowers repay a close look in the border, or a prominent place in a vase.