DAISY, COMMON, or DAY’S EYE (Bellis perennis). These large white gawky-looking flowers are so universal in English pastures and meadows, that description is almost needless. They flower all the year, principally dotting the meadows in early May. . . Domestic cattle rarely touch this plant. Notwithstanding its beauty and its celebration by poets, the daisy is thought a blemish or intruder in neat grass-plats, and can be overcome by perpetual stubbing only.
Thus the entry for DAISY in the American Farmers’ Encyclopaedia (1858). ‘Gawky-looking’ indeed! The author must have had in mind the tall daisies we call Ox-Eyes, which are now in their glorious prime in every grassy place where they can find a foothold (or roothold). The effect of their bright, white, sun-eyed flowerheads nodding on tall stems above the other flowers is cheery and, yes, beautiful – more graceful than gawky. And with the extraordinary dry sunny weather we’ve been having in the Southeast, the Ox-Eyes have been having a great year.
During the working week, I see nothing of the countryside except the semi-urban edgelands, the best of which are to be seen passing the windows of my commuter train – the banks and strips of grassland that line the railway. I can’t remember them ever looking better than they have done this spring/summer, with Ox-Eyes rising over tall, seeding grass, Buttercups and lowlier Daisies, Ragwort and Campion (white and red), against a background of Bramble (already flowering), wild Roses, Elders in full creamy blossom, Locust trees hung with bloom, and Lindens with their hanging flowerheads soon to open. And those places where the Ox-Eye doesn’t show are dominated by Queen Anne Lace, also in the prime of its beauty…
The dryness has kept grass growth down everywhere (including lawns – hurrah!), allowing the flowers to thrive and show to best advantage. In places, indeed, the shorter grass has the pale scorched look of high summer – this really is a drought – but happily there has been enough rain to keep the leaves of the trees gloriously green. And all this beauty rushes past the windows of our commuter trains, uncelebrated – like the ‘gawky’ daisy.