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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold)





Calendula officinalis is also known as the Pot Marigold for its culinary uses. It is a self-sowing annual with flowers in bright, sunshine yellows, light to bright oranges and soft apricot and cream colors. This frost-hardy, sweet, little plant, 1 -2 feet tall at best, has sticky, distinctly scented, long leaves with rounded tips. It has a tendency towards legginess and falls over to sprawl on the ground. This habit makes it good for the hanging basket and as edging plants to soften harsh
landscape dividers. It comes in both double and single varieties and when they flop over I call it a lazy daisy though it resembles a cross between a Chrysanthemum and a Zinnia.

What I find particularly interesting about the Calendula is the seeds. Though it is always advisable to snip off spent blooms to promote more flowering I can’t help but leave a few to go to seed. First, that is the best way to ensure future plants, and second, I like the crescent-shaped seeds which curve inward toward the center. A seed head looks somewhat like a dried single-form incurved mum. I don’t suppose that sounds very appealing but the true plant connoisseur will appreciate anything remotely different. If you like to collect seeds be forewarned. Once dry enough the seed heads crumble at the slightest touch.

Another funny aspect of the Calendula is the sticky leaves. I had one in the house and it left a sticky residue on the floor below it. What this substance is for might baffle the mind but I expect it’s a protective device. I assume it’s rather like fly paper and bugs are afraid to go near it. I have never seen an insect bothering it unless you call the bumble bee a pest. Bees and me are quite chummy. They do their thing and pollinate so I can have more flowers next year. Who can ask for anything more?

Some call the Calendula an herb because it has been used to make soothing balms for chapped lips and mild burns. Some cooks make Calendula vinegars and oils for salads among other things and even use dried petals for herbal teas. Dried petals look pretty in potpourri, too. They retain their color well.

Once planted and left to go to seed, you’ll never be without it. It is one of those plants where you can literally throw the seeds on the ground and they will do the rest. Don’t you just love flowers like that? No, they never become invasive though I have occasionally had to pluck a baby Calendula from a walkway to replant into a flowerbed. Hardly a nuisance.

I love this flower if only because it can survive a few frosts which hit my town in the Pocono mountains of North Eastern Pennsylvania every September. I’ve had Calendulas blooming well into November when barely anything else will. Gotta love it! Do give the Calendula a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.


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