Chocolate Scented Daisy perfect for planting near a patio or garden seat

November 22, 2017

It’s almost Hanukkah and time for chocolate! Chocolate coins, or gelt, that is. A Hanukkah custom was to tip the numerous occasional or itinerant workers with a bit of gelt or coins. These coins were given to the kosher butcher or even the guy whose job was to knock on your door to wake you for prayers. Just as Christmas became magnified in America, so did the Jewish tradition of gelt with a similar focus on children, and the chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil became a bit of cultural memory.

We probably won’t grow true chocolate in our gardens, but we can grow a chocolate tea.

The Chocolate Scented Daisy (Berlandiera lyrata) is an easy-to-grow hardy perennial, known for its chocolate-scented, daisy-like flowers. The small quarter-size yellow blooms have bright-red-striped undersides. They begin to bloom in late spring, and if kept picked will bloom most of the summer. The blooms look for all the world like small sunflowers.

Chocolate Scented Daisy thrives in full sun in dry, rocky soils. This low-growing plant with open, airy foliage makes an attractive informal edging plant. Native to the western United States, this drought-tolerant perennial can even be mowed during the summer and bounce right back. Native Americans used it to cure stomach aches. The dried roots are burned, with the smoke used to inspire courage or treat nervous conditions.

Chocolate Scented Daisy (also called Chocolate Flower) is grown from seeds. You can sow them directly in the garden, or start them indoors and transplant them later. They need light to germinate, so press the seeds lightly on the soil surface. Patience is key, as the seeds can take 30 to 90 days to germinate. Seeds are often available in local garden centers or by mail form nurseries such as Botanical Interests or Vermont Wildflower Farm.

For best effect, plant Chocolate Scented Daisy in large clusters or groups. This is one plant that prefers poor soil with low fertility for best flowering. Indeed, too-rich soil will result in lush foliage and few flowers. These sweet-smelling flowers attract beneficial insects to the garden.

During the hotter days of summer, the flowers change from yellow to pale white; then the tiny ray florets drop off, leaving behind a simple green disc. After a killing frost, the plant will die down to the ground and disappear until next spring. It will come back with a larger crown every spring for an ever-expanding colony a few feet across. To keep the flowers coming, be sure to cut off faded blossoms. You can let the flowers develop into large, star-shaped seedheads. Let them go to seed, and they will often self-sow and form small colonies. The dried seedheads are an interesting addition to everlasting bouquets.

Because Chocolate Scented Daisy flowers open at night, they smell best during the late night and early morning. They’re perfect for planting near a patio or garden seat. Order seeds now and start them indoors next spring or direct sow into the late-spring garden. The flowers make a delicious chocolate tea, perfect for Hanukkah. No gold foil needed.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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