February 22, 2017
Several plants are known by
the common name “Marigold”, but the two most popular types are French marigolds
(Tagetes patula) and African marigolds (Tagetes erecta). Interestingly, French and African marigolds
are neither from France nor Africa. Both
plants are native to Mexico where, even in that warmer climate, they are still
French marigolds are mostly
dwarf. Blooms can be double, semi-double
or single and are available in colours ranging from common yellow, orange and
gold to shades of red and numerous bi-colour varieties. All are profuse bloomers, covered in flowers
from late spring until the first frost in fall.
Of all French marigolds,
the variety “Bonanza” has the largest blooms, measuring as much as 2½ inches
across. The plants are uniform and the
colours are intense. Two of my personal
favouites are Bonanza Orange, whose orange is among the richest I have ever
seen on a bedding plant, and Bonanza Bolero.
The latter was a new introduction in 1999, when it was given the coveted
title of “All American Selection”, an award which recognizes a new flower or
vegetable that has proven to be superior to all others on the market. Each Bolero bloom is one-of-a-kind with
random splashes of mahogany red on golden yellow petals.
African marigolds have
fewer flowers than French, but the blooms are significantly larger and almost
always completely double. Colour choices
are limited to solid shades of yellow, gold, orange or cream.
Compact African varieties,
such as “Taishan”, grow about 12 inches tall with large double blooms atop
stocky stems. Slightly taller, “Marvel”
grows 18 inches tall on extra sturdy stems.
All French and African
marigolds perform very well in hot, dry conditions, making them a natural
choice for an otherwise difficult, scorching southern exposure.
Marigolds are both tender
and tough: Tender because they are quick to perish during the slightest frost,
but tough because no matter how roughly they are handled during planting they
will not be bothered at all. The proof –
it was the only annual my parents let me, at age 7, help transplant when they
entered the nursery business over 40 years ago.
Speaking of my parents, my
daddy always told me to tell the truth, so I do have to say this about
marigolds - they have a peculiar odor.
It’s the sort of scent that you either love or hate. Myself, I actually quite like it and don’t
understand what the fuss is about. But
some people loathe the scent. It’s one
of those things you’ll have to determine for yourself.
Centuries ago Aztecs had
several “practical” uses for marigolds, including a treatment for hiccups. In some cultures marigolds play important
roles in religious ceremonies. During
the Mexican celebration, Day of the Dead, for example, marigold flowers are
used in abundance to decorate shrines and graves of departed loved ones.
For us, though, and for
people in most other parts of the world, Marigolds are, plainly and simply, an
old, reliable favourite annual in the garden.