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Copper Canyon Daisy casts olfactory spell

Copper Canyon daisy is a shrubby marigold that will put you under a spell with its tantalizing smell.

Oddly enough, it makes no difference whether the plant is blooming; the foliage is fragrant too.

Also known as mountain marigold and botanically as Tagetes Lemmonii, the foliage permeates the air with citrus-like scent. You would swear the botanical name originated from the scent, but it is actually in tribute to the couple who discovered it, John G. and Sarah Lemmon.

You might think that a plant native to Arizona and Northern Mexico would die in the humid confines of the southeast. And many references suggest that the low to mid-20’s would be Copper Canyon daisy’s threshold. Yet it does thrive, and a 30-year freeze in Savannah, Ga., with temperatures as low as 16, caused no big issues. They shot from the ground in the spring.

The Copper Canyon daisy has winner written all over it. It is drought-tolerant and tough as nails. It does not appeal to deer and rabbits. In the fall, when they bloom the most, their 1-1/2 inch, marigold-like blossoms attract an assortment of bees and butterflies.

It is recommended for zones 8 and higher (Eastern North Carolina, but I would try it it in protected areas of zone 7 (which includes the Triangle and Piedmont). It is easy to propagate by cutting, which means everyone can enjoy it, then take cuttings to overwinter in a protected location. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil, and you will be on your way to horticultural bliss.

At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, we are growing them with various agave species and lamb’s ear, whose lacy filigreed-like foliage provides an eye-catching contrast. The golden-yellow blossoms are also partnered with other fall bloomers like the purple-on-purple selection of Mexican bush sage ( Salvia leucantha) and Autumn sage, ( Salvia greggii).

Herb lovers will cherish Copper Canyon daisy not only for its fragrance and color but also for the culinary attributes of both and foliage. I have not eaten either, but there are plenty of folks who tout them.

If you want to create a sensory experience your children and grandchildren will remember for a lifetime, include the treasured Copper Canyon daisy in your garden next spring.