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Festival gerbera daisies

Festival series gerbera daisies  Courtesy Photo 

Sweet gerbera daisies are among brides' favorite flowers.

You'll see them regularly in lists of top 10 favorite wedding flowers, probably because they are available in such vivid colors that can match any wedding color schemes. Not to mention their simple charm and cheerfulness and the flower meaning of "innocence and purity."

I expect them to be especially popular this spring when gardeners begin filling containers because the National Garden Bureau has named 2013 the year of the gerbera. Who doesn't love those daisy-rayed flower heads in a range of colors from sedate to neon with green or dark centers?

The gerbera is kissing cousins with daisies, asters, sunflowers and other members of the expansive Asteraceae family. Credit today's gerbera with crossings between wild South African natives Gerbera jamesonii and Gerbera viridifolia. England's Kew Gardens botanists began developing the modern gerbera in the 1880s when plants made it to Britain.

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Early 20th century breeding programs were interrupted by two world wars, and work was renewed in earnest in the 1970s. Breeders primarily were interested in cut flowers, but potted versions for gardeners and houseplant enthusiasts were introduced in the late 1970s. Available in five colors, the open-pollinated "Happipot" potted gerbera series from Sakata Seed Corp., was enthusiastically received by consumers. The company improved the series and in the 1990s, introduced the first F1 hybrid pot gerbera series, the mini "Skipper" for 4-inch pots and "Tempo" for larger pots.

The "Festival" series was released in the 1980s by the Danish seed company Daehnfeldt, and followed in the 1990s with varieties sporting dark centers and semi-double and spider types. Semi-doubles are most often seen is cut flowers, while spider gerberas sport thinner, pointy flower petals.

According to NBG, the first pot-type gerberas were grown from seed until "Giant Spinner" was introduced. It was an outdoor patio gerbera grown from tissue culture and has large 8-inch pink and white flowers. The "Landscape" series is a cross between potted gerbera and cut flower types targeted for patio pots and large tubs. Another recent introduction, the "Garvinea" series has smaller flowers on disease-resistant plants for a botanical look.

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