On any glossy brochure depicting Western Australian flora, you will see images of brightly coloured everlasting daisies as far as the eye can see.
In the wild, these fast-growing annuals perform brilliantly under extreme conditions. They germinate with the first rains in winter and by late August are in full flower, adding bright colour to the otherwise harsh landscape of outback Australia.
These plants are extremely easy to grow in your own garden and really don’t need much care at all. The pink and white everlasting (Rhodanthe chlorocephala ssp rosea) puts on a spectacular show and is perfect for any sunny position. It’s ideal for brightening up a dull verge garden or a neglected area of a garden.
The easiest way to establish everlastings is to grow from seed. All that’s required is a little preparation to get good germination. Remove any weeds from the area, as everlastings don’t compete very well with vigorous weeds.
Rake the soil over to loosen the top layer and add a quality soil improver (about one icecream container per square metre) with one handful of pure blood and bone. Rake smoothly. The extra nutrients from the soil improver will help nourish the small seedlings as they germinate.
Take the seed and put in a bucket with organic soil improver and mix thoroughly. This acts as a spreader and will ensure even coverage of the seed. Pure everlasting seed will tend to pack together and trying to spread without this step results in a patchy verge.
Spread the seed/soil improver mix and rake lightly. Water in well or wait until the first rains. The seed will germinate very quickly and will respond to an application of controlled-release fertiliser when about 10–15cm tall. The controlled-release fertiliser will release nutrients slowly, resulting in strong stems and spectacular flowers.
Everlastings can be successfully dried so you can enjoy the colour all year round. The trick is to pick the flowers when they are young and just opening. Then hang upside down in a cool, dark room. Once dried, the stems can be trimmed and they can be placed in vases.
If you pick the flowers when they are fully open the petals will fold back towards the stem and the flowers will fall apart.