Denver Delights With Daisies

Denver Delights With Daisies

On Earth Day (April 22), the city and county of Denver unveiled the ‘Denver Daisy,’ a one-of-a-kind flower bred and named in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary. Bred by Benary in Germany, the new flower is derived from Rudbeckia hirta, a flower native to Colorado.

“For our 150th anniversary, we wanted to create a legacy and give something back to Denver,” says Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. “What better gift to the people of Denver than a new flower — one that can be planted every year for generations to come.”

Perfectly suited for Colorado’s arid climate, ‘Denver Daisy’ thrives in hot, sunny areas with minimal moisture and quickly develops eye-catching golden flowers with a deep red color circling a dark brown center.

Thanks to the support of presenting sponsor Key Bank, 300,000 seed packets were distributed free throughout the city at bank branches, metro-area garden centers, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Historical Society and other locations throughout Denver. Packets also were distributed to K-5 students in Denver Public Schools. And every copy of the May issue of 5280 magazine contained a seed packet.

The city of Denver partnered with Plant Select, Hardy Boy Bedding Plants (grower-retailer Welby Gardens), Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State University and members of the green industry to make it happen. Fully grown ‘Denver Daisies’ were planted in city-maintained landscaping areas.

Other major organizations, such as the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District and Downtown Denver Partnership, also planted ‘Denver Daisy’ in landscaping beds in their respective jurisdictions.

“By August, when the Democratic National Convention comes to town, our city will be awash with color — ‘Denver Daisies’ everywhere,” Hickenlooper says. “By planting today, we can make Denver greater, greener and more sustainable. The Denver Daisy will be among our more visible legacies for us and for future generations.” 

Germinating The Idea

More than 18 months ago at the Mile High Alliance, a monthly gathering of local public relations and marketing leaders in the public and nonprofit sector, the city sought ideas for commemorating its 150th anniversary. The group began brainstorming and decided a new flower was the idea to pitch to the city.

To get advice on whether such a project was feasible, the city contacted Panayoti Kelaidis, curator of plant collections at Denver Botanic Gardens. He was confident the idea would work and approached Hardy Boy Bedding Plants CEO Al Gerace to collaborate on ideas for finding the right flower for the occasion. Kelaidis had worked with Gerace on columbine ‘Remembrance,’ the flower named in memory of the victims of the Columbine High School tragedy in October 1999.

Gerace, who for 34 years has been involved with bringing plants to Colorado that are suitable for the state’s growing conditions, says someone initially suggested a type of sunflower. But he thought something that would sustain color for a longer period of time would be more appropriate.

“This is a great way for the green industry of Colorado to celebrate the sesquicentennial with the mayor and the city, and we really wanted something that would last all summer,” Gerace says.

So he enlisted the help of Duane Sinning, who spent 13 years working with PlantSelect, a cooperative program administered by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University in concert with horticulturists and nurseries and now works for flower breeder Ernst Benary of America. During the next five years, Benary will devote 10 percent of the income from the sale of ‘Denver Daisy’ to Plant Select for promoting the new flower nationwide. 

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