My daughter loves daisies, they’re her favorite flowers in almost any form, with Shastas and Gerberas topping her list.
I can’t grow Gerberas, except as annuals in pots, but Shastas do very well. According to Kate Greenaway, in her 1884 Language of Flowers — which I had as a child and was later given a fresh copy by a dear friend — daisies stand for loyalty, friendship, memory. The Shasta is “innocence”; the Garden daisy (which may have been the Marguerite) means “I share your sentiments”; the Michaelmas is “farewell”; the party-colored stands for “beauty”; the Wild daisy says “I will think of it.”
There are, of course, many, many kinds of daisies from the Great Ox-eye to Horse daisies and Moon daisies.
An English daisy (bellis perennis) that comes early in some climates is thought of as a harbinger of spring. It was said spring had not arrived until you could plant your foot on seven of them. Some people even grew daisy lawns or mowed their lawns in shapes so as to maintain the daisies and other wild flowers, leaving them to flower as they might in a meadow.
Daisies are often used in love diviniation. Remember how as kids (and maybe older), we plucked the petals of daisies saying with each one, “S/he loves me, s/he loves me not”? It’s an old activity, usually conducted by girls, to discover the truth about a boy or simply make up her mind about him. And it was said that whoever picked the first daisy of the season would be possessed of “a spirit of coquetry.” Sleep with a daisy under your pillow and an absent lover will return.
My daughter-in-law, adept with her hands (and a marvelous baker), can make daisy chains. (I’m inept. Even with written instructions and using rushes, thread, needles, it’s hopeless.) Chains are customarily worn around children’s necks for festivals or woven with other flowers as bridal crowns.
Mrs. M Grieve’s 1931 A Modern Herbal tells us dried daisies — all parts — are bitter to the taste and smell like valerian. Used in a tonic daisies “act similarly to Chamomile flowers…recommended for nightsweats.” Daisies are also antispasmodic, diuretic, work against coughs (consumption, whooping cough), and yellow jaundice.