One of the first flowers every child draws in kindergarten is the daisy. Perhaps because of the simplicity of the petals’ design or maybe because the daisy shape is the first recognized as a ‘flower.’ I think we love them as children because they are cheerful, it is easy to pick a handful, and no one seems to mind the picking.

Double shasta daisy ‘Aglaia’

There are many daisies and daisy-like flowers and all come from the huge Asteraceae family of sunflowers, mums, dandelions, dahlia, and coneflowers, to name a few. One of the most popular daisies is the roadside wildflower, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (also Leucanthemum vulgare), or the Oxeye daisy with its white petals and yellow centers.

This common daisy comes from Eurpose and the name derives from Anglo-Saxon for day’s eye. The botanical name is contradictory. Anthemum come from the Greek word ‘anthos’ meaning flower. Chrys comes from ‘chrysos,’ or gold, and leuc means white, so you have the white flowered gold flower. In some places this plant is considered a noxious weed, and although not poisonous, cows won’t eat it, so daisies in hay spells trouble for farmers.

Historically, the daisy was used as a medicine and cosmetic, most often as a soothing lotion. Another common name, Marguerite or Margaret daisy, comes from the 14th century when Margaret of Anjou married King Henry VI of England. Her wedding robes were embroidered with oxeye daisies.

The Shasta daisy is the white daisy most of us grow in our gardens. It’s flower is larger than the wild variety, and it is a bit better behaved. Luther Burbank hybridized this daisy. It used to be Chrysanthemum x superbum, but has been reclassified as Leucanthemum x superbum. As gardeners are the never satisfied with what they have, the hybridizers are developing pale yellow varieties.

Easy to obtain and easy to grow, Shasta daisies deserve their popularity. They also seem to like our Michigan climate. In soils that are very rich, Shastas grow tall and lanky, and the stems fall to the ground, but here they tend to stay more compact and well behaved all season long. They fit in with almost any style of garden from formal to more natural plantings. Their colors blend with many color schemes, and can even help harmonize less compatible colors.

All Shasta daisies need full sun and well-drained soil. They like moist soil, but thrive in less perfect conditions. There are many cultivars available, differing mostly in height, size of flower, and when they start blooming. There are both single and double flowered types available. ‘Polaris,’ and ‘Alaska’ are two of the oldest and most common single cultivars, and remains a great garden plants.
The 2003 Perennial of the Year as named by the Perennial Plant Association is the Shasta daisy cultivar ‘Becky.’ It has 3” flowers and blooms from July through September if the old flowers are removed.

If you don’t deadhead your flowers, or if they get lanky, cut back the stems to just above the bottom leaves. New leaves will quickly emerge from the plant’s base, and sometimes it resumes flowering. They like to be divided every two or three years, so you will soon have masses of daisies to pick. If you catch children picking your Shasta daisies, don’t scold; instead, take a moment to teach them the old divination game, picking petals to ‘he loves me, he loves me not.’

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