Ox-Eye Daisies: Picking Flowers for My MomBy Jill M. Nicolaus (critterologist)
May 7, 2011
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 29, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Ox-Eye Daisies, or Field Daisies, are my mother's favorite flower. As a child bringing the cows back from the far pasture, she'd come home with armloads of them. I grew up knowing their cheerful faces had a special beauty. Any time I saw them, I had to pick a few - and sometimes more than a few! - to bring home to my mom. After all, they were her favorite!
Ox-Eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) can be found in abundant sweeps of bloom in sunny fields and along roadsides. They're not picky about soil quality or water supply, and they're definitely tougher than your average hothouse petunia. As a spreading and reseeding perennial, it may come back in larger and more numerous clumps each year. But its shallow roots make it fairly easy to pull out if it pops up in an inconvenient spot.
Any flower that occurs in flocks of thousands is made for picking. Whether you put a few short-stemmed blooms in a little vase or combine an armful of daisies with other wildflowers or cottage garden favorites, daisies make delightful cut flowers. Next to dandelions, they may be the flower most often picked "for Mommy."
I can remember my delight one afternoon in finding a whole field of daisies in exuberant bloom when I was out bike riding. I rolled up my sleeves and waded into them, picking and picking until my bicycle basket overflowed. I rushed them home to get them to my mom, and into water. We put them into vase after vase and jar after jar, until there were bouquets of daisies in every room of the house.
I've never understood why florists prefer bold Shasta Daisies to the wilder, more delicate charm of Ox-Eyes. My mother wanted Ox-Eye Daisies for her wedding bouquet, but was told that she'd have to make do with Shasta Daisies. Not that Shasta Daises aren't pretty, but they're not the flowers she picked as a child. Nonetheless, my father surprises her with a bouquet of Shasta Daisies every year on May Day as well as on their anniversary. (And after 47 years, she's always surprised.) She loves them because they remind her of "real" daisies.
Daisies work well for the fortune-telling game of "He loves me... He loves me not." With each repetition, you pull off a petal, and the last petal gives you your answer. Ox-eye Daisies must generally have odd numbers of petals, because they almost always me give the best answer, "He loves me!" As my mother taught me, any daisy that gives you a different result is clearly defective. You must toss it aside and quickly pick another one.
As an adult, I still can't go past a stand of daisies without thinking of my mom and, if possible, picking some for her. I've made my husband pull over at an intersection while I dashed out of the car to snatch as many daisies as I could before the light changed. We were on our way to see my family, and I just knew my mom needed daisies.
Ox-Eye Daisies are considered a weed by some (never in our family!), and I don't think I've ever seen plants for sale. However, I've transplanted a few roadside clumps, and I've winter sowed some seeds, and I've encouraged any volunteers that pop up. Now I have my own clumps of Ox-Eye Daisies out among my little fruit trees, and I'm hoping they'll increase each year. Of course, they'd have better odds of self-sowing if I didn't keep cutting so many flowers!
There are other flowers to pick in the wild tangle growing around our little orchard: bright Zinnias, frilly Love-in-a-Mist, striped Mallow, tall Cosmos, airy Queen Anne's Lace. But the flowers that our nieces and nephews and the neighborhood kids go for straightaway are the blooming clumps of Ox-Eye Daisies. And the question they ask me is always the same. "Please, can I pick some of these for my mom?"
Photos by Jill Nicolaus.
For a look at a similar but fall-blooming daisy, check out SallyG's article on Montauk Daisies.
Happy Birthday, Mom!
Hope your day is daisy-special.