Marigolds are one of my favorite plants and I find myself often defending them. They have a reputation for being stodgy and boring, and while they are certainly ubiquitous, there are plenty of interesting varieties out there that no one needs to get bored with them. Discoveries of unusual marigolds continue to delight me as I peruse catalogs and put the finishing touches on our seeding plans.
he first European discovery of them was by the Portuguese in Central America. I am not sure if they were cultivated by Native Americans, or just growing wild, but they were no doubt appreciated. The Portuguese brought them to Europe and India. Now they are used widely throughout the world for ornamental, medicinal, ritual, and culinary purposes. All marigolds are edible, but the small flowere tagetes type, like the gem series are best used for this purpose.
I am working out the timing of all our marigold varieties. Doing the timing means figuring out when to plant them, how often to plant them and what kind of pot they should end up in. When you buy marigolds, they usually come in 4 packs or 6 packs, and have often by treated with a hormone that induces them to bloom on short stems so that you know what they will look like once planted.
We don't use any kind of hormone sprays or growth regulators. So sometimes, we sell marigolds and other annuals while they are still green, without blooms. It involves a little more work because we have to have pictures of the marigolds around the greenhouse and we have to explain why we do it, but really it much better than using a bunch of chemicals.
Here are some of the new varieties we are doing this year.
I really love marigolds. I know that they are not unusual or rare, but they fire up some sort of ofalctory memory center for me. Maybe my grandmother had them, or my parents planted them. I have no visual memory of them that is as strong as the scent memory. Their pungent, almost citrus-like aroma is a deterent to some and appealing to others. How do you feel about marigolds?
Anyhow, here are a few that I am excited about.
This last one is, Jolly Jester, is one of my favorites. It is about 4 feet tall, and not at all a typical marigold. The striped blooms are a contrasting play of lively yellow and deep orange, and they sway gently in the breeze. They do not at all have the stiff appearance of many marigolds and kids just love them. This is an old-fashioned variety - we find the seeds at Seed Savers Exchange which specializes in heirloom seeds of harder to find plants. 97 of our 679 varieties come from them.