My first recollections of gardens before the advent of film going and reading, were innocent sunny days of early childhood interspersed with bitter winters and snowmen.
When I wasn’t playing with kittens I would make endless daisy chains. These would be made off and on all through early childhood. To begin with I didn’t have the manual dexterity to slit the stems and Mum would help me out. As soon as I could do so myself I would wander around festooned with tiaras, necklaces and bracelets of snowy white. A princess, a queen – special and beautiful.
How many small girls over the centuries have done so? No expense no special equipment and hours of delighted and tranquil pleasure. Of course to be able to do this one must also be able to persuade the powers that be not to be too prompt with the lawn mower.
There were always the parks nearby if the lawn daisies were too ruthlessly destroyed. Mum would often take us to the parks for a stroll, a place where tricycles could be given long smooth paths to trundle down. They were like extensions of the garden. Lakes instead of ponds, woodland instead of individual trees and squirrels running across the endless grass.
When I sat in solemn concentration all those years ago I wasn’t even remotely aware or interested in the folklore behind the daisy – they were just ‘pretty’.
These are the ultimate feminine flower, associated with Venus but also with freshness and innocence – rather conflicting views I feel! They go from childhood innocence to love
If you picked the first daisy of the year you would be filled with romantic desire
If you slept with the root of a daisy under your pillow then possibly your wayward lover would return to you.
The association with childhood though, may have come from the Celtic belief
that daisies were the spirits of children who had died at birth.
Also in some places, way back,
that a daisy chain could protect children from being stolen by the fairies.
Another time consuming task was to discover if we liked butter! Yellow flowers would be picked and held under the chin; reflected yellow proved you did, no yellow – well!
Wouldn’t it have been simpler just to ask? – possibly, but not so much giggling fun:)
It was the humble often overlooked buttercup which would reflect back a marvelous golden glow on the chin.
Back in the day, it was often believed that it was the yellow in the buttercup which produced the yellow in the butter, however cows seldom eat these plants as they are mildly poisonous, extreme hunger only, will drive them to a buttercup.
We may have giggled over the game but it was an earnest and potentially dangerous one back when superstition prevailed. If one was suspected of stealing any butter this simple little test was used to establish innocence or guilt. If the yellow showed on your chin you were okay if it didn’t you had obviously swallowed the said butter.
Stealing was a death sentence.
On such slender evidence a life can hang.
We now know that the beautiful colour is caused by a carotenoid pigment and the flowers are actually trying to attract pollinators. The splendid glow of the yellow is because of the construction of its petals, two layers of flat cells separated by gap of air the reflection of light by these layers and air are doubled, making them the best flower for the butter test if you want to be found innocent. These petals are also excellent in reflecting ultra violet light, which has the bee and other pollinators homing in on them.
I have always had a soft spot for these two playthings of my childhood. For me a lawn with no daisies is a sad and forlorn sight and as for buttercups, they need no care or pampering (which of course is why they are scorned and hated) they are just are the most perfect little cups of gold.