2001 marked the 100th anniversary of Luther Burbank’s introduction of the Shasta daisy, one of America’s most beloved garden flowers. Burbank spent 17 years developing this quadruple hybrid which he named after Mt. Shasta. Others have continued Burbank’s work and many new varieties of the Shasta daisy have been introduced since Burbank completed his work more than 100 years ago.
How Luther Burbank Made the Shasta Daisy
Luther Burbank had a great fondness for the wild oxeye daisies that grew under the elm tree in front of his family home. Many years later, the young plant-breeder was inspired to develop these wildflowers for use as garden flowers, and envisioned an ideal daisy: it would have very large pure-white flowers, a long blooming period, and do well both as a cut flower and garden plant. In order to achieve his goals he used four different plants.
He started with the oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and cross-pollinated it with the English field daisy (Leucanthemum maximum) which had larger flowers than the oxeye daisy. The best of these hybrids were then dusted with pollen from the Portuguese field daisy (Leucanthemum lacustre) and their seedlings were bred selectively for six years.
These bloomed nicely, but Burbank wasn’t satisfied yet. He wanted whiter, brighter flowers. He took the most promising of these triple hybrids and pollinated them with the Japanese field daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum), a species with small, pure-white flowers. Finally, he got the beautiful large white daisy that he was hoping for. He named it for the lovely glistening Mount Shasta in Northern California. He finally introduced his Shasta daisy hybrids in 1901.
Where to find daisies
Luther Burbank Home & Gardens
The Gift Shop sells seed packets of Burbank’s ‘Alaska’. Plants are offered seasonally, or when available. Please call ahead for current availability: 707-524-5445.
Luther Burbank’s Gold Ridge Experiment Farm
At 7781 Bodega Ave, Sebastopol, CA, 707-829-6711. Holds plant sales of unusual varieties every Wednesday. This is the only source for ‘Chuck’s Delight’. They do NOT ship plants nationwide. www.wschsgrf.org
Shasta Daisy plants are normally available in California in late March.
King’s Nursery, 1212 13th St, Santa Rosa, 707-542-4782 www.kingsflowernursery.com
Emerisa Gardens, 555 Irwin Ln, Santa Rosa, 707-525-9644 www.emerisa.com
Mail Order Seeds
Swallowtail Garden Seeds, www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com, 707-538-3585, ‘Alaska’ and ‘Snow Lady’ seeds.
Mail Order Plants
White Flower Farm, 800-503-9624, www.whiteflowerfarm.com, ‘Becky’, ‘Snow Lady’, and ‘Christine Hageman’ available in March.
Jackson & Perkins, 877-322-2300, www.jacksonandperkins.com, ‘Little Princess’, ‘Aglaia’, available now.
Burpee, 800-888-1447, www.burpee.com, ‘Silver Princess’, ‘Alaska’, ‘Becky’, ‘Crazy Daisy’.
Dayton Nurseries, 330-825-3320, www.daytonnursery.com, ‘Alaska’, ‘Becky’, ‘Crazy Daisy’, ‘Little Princess’, ‘Snow Lady’, ‘Summer Snowball’, ‘Switzerland’, ‘Thomas Killen’.
Sugar Creek Gardens, 314-965-3070, www.sugarcreekgardens.com, ‘Becky’, ‘Crazy Daisy’, ‘Marconi’, ‘Polaris’, ‘Snow Cap’, ‘Snow Lady’, ‘Summer Snowball’. Find Shastas under “L” for Leucanthemum. Business opens March 1. Daisies ship after April 15.