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The gardener’s pot o’ mari-gold
Easy to grow, marigolds are common favourites, filling gardens with brilliant orange or yellow blooms, in some cases year-round.
The Calendula nova (Calendula officinalis) or pot marigold is thought to derive its name from calend (or clock) due to its ability to thrive throughout the year.
From the Asteraceae family, these marigolds have sticky leaves and feature daisy-like flowers with up to three rows of petals grouped around a brown centre.
Growing to approximately 50-60cm in height, pot marigold cultivars range in colour from the deep orange-red of Indian Prince, to the pale yellow of the Lemon variety.
Thought to have originated in southern Europe the pot marigold is now found worldwide, growing in warm, temperate regions, flowering throughout summer and, in warmer climates, in early spring and late autumn.
When, where and how to plant:
In most parts of New Zealand, pot marigolds can be planted in autumn for winter colour. Seeds can be sown in containers or directly into the garden. Plant seeds roughly 30cm apart in rich, well-drained soil for optimum results.
This golden child loves the sun! Choose an area in your garden that receives full sun or partial shade. Although they are perennials, pot marigolds do not fare well in extreme temperatures.
Many people plant marigolds near and around their vegetables as they repel many pests. However, other insect are attracted to them; some good, such as bees which will cross pollinate, and some not so good. Therefore, consider carefully where you place these colourful and long-lasting flowers when it comes to the veggie plot.
Aside from a little water, marigolds require only limited care. It is recommended, however, that the dying flower heads be regularly removed to ensure an even production of blossoms.
What’s good for the garden is good for the gardener! This is especially true when it comes to pot marigolds. While they are excellent companion plants, they also offer a range of medicinal benefits.
Marigolds have been used in the treatment of ailments ranging from skin infections and warts, to periodontal disease and even stomach ulcers.
Believed to have first been used by the ancient Greeks, marigolds were employed on the front lines during the American Civil War, where poultices were applied to open wounds, sores and burns.
Some studies suggest the reason for their wide ranging healing properties could be that the plant’s extracts have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Their medicinal value is usually gained through ingestion, or by being applied directly to the affected area.
And they’re tasty too! With a flavour similar to saffron, marigolds are often used as garnish, bringing a new flavour to such savoury dishes as risotto and pastas or as bursts of colour for salads.
While some may grow them for aesthetic or medicinal values, others to produce a tasty treat or a hard-working garden ally, whatever their reasons, gardeners worldwide have gone to pot and have become sold… on marigold!