Calendula

Photographs by Sabina Rüber

Calendula officinalis Pink Surprise

Pink Surprise

Calendula offincalis Double White Shades

Double White Shades

Calendula officinalis Orange Flash

Orange Flash

  
Marigolds are an easy, no-fail flower to grow if you want instant satisfaction – a good choice for children or anyone coming to gardening for the first time. Easy to germinate, swift-growing and happy in almost any garden soil, they provide hot dashes of colour to fill gaps in the border or around the edge of a vegetable plot, and will also happily adapt to containers. In the garden they add strong accents of colour to a display, and they attract bees, hoverflies and other beneficial insects that help to control aphids and other pests. The petals themselves are edible, with a light, peppery taste; throw them over salads or desserts to dress them up and turn them into something special. 

Tangerine-orange Calendula officinalis, the common marigold, is all you need if you want to fill your garden with bright, cheerful colour, but there are other more subtle colours available, from deeper reds to pale yellows. ‘Indian Prince’ has rich velvety orange flowers with a deep rusty red eye, the same darker colour echoed on the reverse side of the petals. On the other side of the spectrum is ‘Double White Shades, which has creamy white petals and a chocolate brown centre. For something a bit different, ‘Orange Flash’ has delicate buff pink apricot blooms. However, if you want a mix of colours all in one, look no further than the ‘Pacific Beauty’ mix, with flowers in lemon-yellow, apricot and darker orange – the best one-stop-shop for brightening up your patch. 

Marigolds just want to germinate for you, whether direct in the ground or in modular trays. Sow indoors in modular trays from early spring, germinating the seeds at 18-20C, and outdoors in mid-spring when the soil has warmed up. Marigolds aren’t fussy about the soil they grow in, and will grow in full sun or partial shade. They need very little attention throughout the growing season, other than the odd watering if the weather is very dry. When they start to flower, pick or deadhead the flowers constantly and they will continue flowering for months, even until the first frosts.