Just below Tasha and John Vatistas's house near Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, free-blooming African daisies paint a meadow in brilliant shades of orange, yellow, salmon, pink, and white. Blooming from January through May, the daisies are the legacy of the previous owner, Brent Turley, who started planting them in the mid-1980s.
Initially Turley broadcast by hand 5 pounds of African daisy seeds (Dimorphotheca aurantiaca) over a 20- by 20-foot patch. He covered the seeded area with a light mulch and kept it moist until the seeds germinated. After the daisies bloomed, he shook the spent flower heads over a cookie sheet to collect their seeds. Over the years Turley used the seeds he saved to gradually enlarge the planting (one season he used a handheld vacuum cleaner to gather seeds).
To keep the meadow from looking barren when the daisies weren't in bloom, he planted agaves and a variety of cactus, including golden barrel, prickly pear, saguaro, and night-blooming Cereus peruvianus.
Turley achieved the best results by sowing in October, raking the soil before broadcasting seeds. During fall and winter, he supplemented rainfall by watering with a hose every two to four weeks. Plants were fed with an all-purpose fertilizer in November and March. In early summer, the spent annuals were mowed and raked into the soil to supply added nutrients.