It’s been a weird week. Nothing’s changed for us in that we’re still at home and only going shopping once a week, but when I did go out the whole social distancing thing seemed to have disappeared completely and people were behaving as though things had got back to ‘normal’; how is that even possible? The hospital where the Eldest is has said that they are not going to be changing their policy of no visitors as they don’t believe that it is yet safe to do so – family is critical to her recovery, so this is not great for her or us – but we understand. What we don’t understand is if it’s too risky for us to see her, how can it be ok to send children back to school … Ok, enough. Back to less controversial stuff.
So, the other day while I was making lunch, the Littlest wandered off into the garden and when I called everyone she appeared, beaming, with an incredibly long daisy chain. It just made me smile so much – pure sweetness and innocence. Almost every child knows what a daisy is – it must be one of the most common wild flowers that encroaches into our gardens. Although seen as weeds by many gardeners, the rise of rewilding projects and No Mow May, an initiative encouraging gardeners to let the grass grow in May giving plants the chance to flower to encourage more bees and butterflies, means that many lawns are now scattered with daisies. No Mow May is run by Plantlife and there’s more information here: https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/about-us/news/no-mow-may-how-to-get-ten-times-more-bees-on-your-lockdown-lawn So far 191,200 daisies have been counted and they have worked out that last year “the average lawn produced 12 grams of nectar sugar per day, enough to support 1,088 honeybees.“. Now that really is a good reason to give mowing a break for a month! If you have any outside space it could be a great way of spending a little bit of time getting children to count flowers in a square metre of lawn and then add it to their count online – you might be amazed at what flowers you find too. We’ve found dog violets along with the daisies in the lawn this year, both purple and white, which are beautiful and dainty but unlike other wild violets, are unscented.
Back to daisies. Daisies survive pretty much everything – cold winters, wet winters, hot summers, dry summers; these little flowers still pop up every spring, their dainty heads searching for the sun. They have been around for 4000 years and are so prolific that the only place they are not found in the world is Antarctica. They also make up almost 10% of all flowering plants on the planet. Our lawn is scattered with these white petaled flowers with a bright yellow central disk. The underside of the petals look as though they’ve been dipped in magenta pink. As the day begins the flower opens wide and as the sun disappears the petals close up tightly. Their name comes from the Old English ‘daes eag’ meaning ‘day’s eye’ as the flower opens like an eye when the sun comes out.
Daisies are in fact two flowers in one. The florets making up the yellow centre and different to the white petals. The yellow centre is made up of many tiny flowers called disk florets while the outer white part is made of ray florets looking like typical petals. Each disk and ray floret is an individual flower made of a stamen, carpel and ovary; the ray florets are sterile, while the disk florets are fertile. Each flower holds food for insects attracted by the bright yellow centre.
The ancient Roman festival, Floralia – held in honour of Flora, the goddess of flowers and the season of spring – celebrated the cycle of life, the beginning of spring and fertility in nature. One of the traditions was the wearing of floral crowns and May Day was the mid-point of the festival. During the Victorian era, daisy chains would be made to wear as May Day crowns. There are many myths surrounding the daisy but I think the most poignant is the old Celtic legend that says that when a baby died, God would spread daisies on Earth to help the parents heal.
To make a daisy chain:
- Pick about 12 daisies with longish stalks.
- Make a small slit at the bottom of the stem with your fingernail.
- Thread a daisy through the slit.
- Repeat until you have a chain.
- Carefully join the two ends up.
Pure simplicity and perfect for a bit of lunchtime decoration!