Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Marigolds (31 JUL 2012)

The Aztecs believed that cempoalxochitls were magical. They scattered paths of the vibrant flowers from altars into their houses to guide home the spirits of those who had passed away and added the dried plants to their smoking concoctions to envisage the future. This property may explain why their botanical name is Tagetes, named after the Roman prophet Tages.

Spanish explorers brought them from Mexico to Europe in the 16th century. It’s not clear why these plants were called marigolds, though it has been speculated : Mary’s Gold after the Virgin Mary.

Marigolds (Tagetes) in a public display

A native marigold with botanical name Calendula already existed in Europe, noted by the Romans to flower all year round. It had medicinal properties and was also used as a yellow food dye by adding dried petals directly to the cooking pot or indirectly by feeding flowers to chickens to intensify the yellowness of their egg yolks.

Gourmets label dried marigold petals as poor man’s saffron compared to the authentic strands of crocus stigmas. In spring when the crocuses were in bloom, I mentioned my nostalgic obsession with this colour. As far as I’m concerned they were just the appetiser; marigolds are the main course.

Pot Marigolds (Calendula) - brighter than the sunshine

Even though my pot marigolds are not the magical, Mexican variety and though I’m not supposed to believe in magic being a scientist, they seem to have cast a spell on me during the past few rainy months. So here I am also gazing at hollyhocks, hydrangeas, agapanthus and corn flowers but find myself writing down marigolds as the July entry in my Dozen for Diana.

Pot Marigolds (Calendula) light up my garden on rainy days


There were no marigolds in the garden of my childhood. My mother favoured pinks, reds, blues and purples, the bigger and fancier the better, always doubles over singles. I preferred the daises. Marigolds were the first seeds that germinated for me when I started working on my own garden, just a couple of weeks after they were planted. I fell in love at first sight of the lettuce-green leaves, then the flowers. Since the first planting, they have self-seeded and somehow made themselves unattractive to slugs and snails which seem to be gorging on everything else. Marigolds remind me not to forget what comes easily when I'm faced with challenges.

If you asked me my favourite colour, I would probably choose purple one day, blue the next. It would never occur to me to select yellowy-orange, but that’s the colour that lifts my spirit, it triggers my psyche to believe that anything is possible.

That makes marigolds magical to me.


Caution : Pot marigolds (calendula officinalis) are edible in moderation but ornamental marigold hybrids might not be. Please check the seed packet.

Fay shows us how to preserve poor man’s saffron :
http://orkneyflowers.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/poor-lasses-saffron-calendula.html


Thank-you very much to Malar for nominating me for a Versatile Blogger Award.
I enjoy reading about her tropical plants. Unfortunately, the monkeys stole her mangoes… http://myemeraldgarden.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/gone.html


©Copyright 2012 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2012/07/marigolds-31-jul-2012.html

11 comments:

Donna@GWGT said...

A lot to know about the common Marigold. Here is it kind of a lowly annual, even though it is great companion planting in the vegetable garden. Interesting post.

Mark and Gaz said...

Love the cheerful colour of Marigolds too! And yes, they make fabulous companion planting in veggie patches as well :)

Nadezda said...

Hi! B_A_G, I"m here over Blotanical, I saw there your blog. The name of it is interesting. What experiments do you do with your plants?
I love your photos of calendula, nice color, sunny.
Nadezda
http://northern-garden.blogspot.com

Libby said...

Lovely! I'm pretty sure calendula are magical too though I don't have my books on the topic to hand :) I have to admit a bias towards the pot marigold, but Tagetes are great too.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Well you have one of my obsessions there...marigolds. I grow the exotic annuals from seed now and have some many varieties every year. My mother planted these cheery flowers with their lovely variety of blooms. They are a must in the veg garden as their smell keeps critters at bay. I will have to feature the flowers soon so you can see them. I do not grow the pot marigold but have been meaning to...so it will go on the list. Love the history behind these flowers. The meaning of the flower is not at all cheery though: despair and grief although with your rain perhaps a bit appropriate :) The African Marigold means uneasiness and the French Marigold is jealousy. I still love them.

HolleyGarden said...

I loved hearing about marigolds. I love that color, too, and I have a lot of orange in my garden, but I've never grown marigolds! I don't know why. I guess I should give them a try!

Diana of Elephants Eye said...

lots of interesting background info. Perhaps you'll teach me to learn to like marigolds? Do like the idea of a few vibrant petals scattered on salad.

Stacy said...

Those colors are so wonderfully alive, b-a-g! I love the Tagetes now, though I couldn't stand them as a child, but haven't had much success growing calendula--the flower buds always wither, and I can't figure out why.

linniew said...

I like the Aztec story! Marigolds are bright and dependable--I wish they had a pretty fragrance. Still, there is the magic...

debsgarden said...

Marigolds are magical to me because they can stand up to our summer's heat and humidity. They take in the sun and want more. I couldn't imagine a summer garden without them.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Donna GWGT, Donna GEV, Holly & Diana - I was hoping that this post might change people's minds about marigolds. I'm not sure if I achieved my goal, but I'm sure that Donna GEV's post will. Looking forward to it.

I'm with you Libby - That's why I had to go outside my garden to find the tagetes. It's the daisiness of pot marigolds that I like.

Stacy - Calendula self-seeds for me, but then it is native to Europe, while tagetes is your native plant. I read about a variety called tagetes lucida which tastes like tarragon. The aztecs used it to flavour their cocoa.

Mark & Gaz - I read that tagetes have a substance in their roots which wards off underground pests.

Thanks Linnie & Deb - Glad they're magical to you too.

Welcome Nadezda - When I started this blog, I planned to do many more experiments, like this post : http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/foxgloves-15-may-2011.html
but then I discovered that gardening is more magical than scientific. Thanks for reminding me though, I'll have to think about setting up more experiments.

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