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French, African, American - What a Mix!
Member Name: wendybull
Date: 15/09/06, updated on 15/09/06 (1843 review reads)
Advantages: Gorgeous colours, easy to seed
Disadvantages: Slugs love them.
While I was pregnant with my son a few years ago, I took maternity leave six weeks prior to giving birth, this meant I was home with no other children to look after for six lovely weeks in the months of March and April. I had to find something to fill my days other than daytime TV and this is when I began my love of Marigolds and started to fill my greenhouse with seedlings.
I started doing seedlings as I had planted a lot of Marigold plants from Homebase the year before and my mum-in-law had shown me how to collect the seeds from the heads after the flower dies, so I had a tin full of Marigold seeds just waiting to be sown!
There are a huge amount of different types of Marigold and everyone will have their favourite. I have detailed the two main varieties here to give you an idea of the types you can get, but it is worth remembering that most varieties of Marigolds are actually hybrids and therefore if you harvest their seeds and replant the following year, the chances of a Marigold growing into the same as the plant you reaped the seeds from is highly unlikely. Of all the seeds I planted I ended up with an abundance of the French Marigold type plant, my least favourite, but my garden was a hive of colour that year. In between the two mentioned here there are lots of versions with different shaped petals and different heights etc, however for ease of the review and also ease of buying if you wanted to get some I have stuck with the most common and well known.
French – These are my least favourite type. They are usually small in height, maybe around 10 inches or so, and the foliage appears bushier than the taller varieties. The flowers are larger petals than the African/American varieties but much, much fewer so it almost resembles a pansy in some ways. The colour mostly ranges from yellow to deep orange and some have a mix of both with tints in between as well. It makes a nice edging plant for a border in my opinion but I find it a little boring and would prefer something like Lobelia for the edges of my borders.
African/American – These are much taller with some variations growing as tall as 36 inches. I prefer the more sedate versions that average around 10 – 12 inches with beautiful orb shaped, extremely full, flower heads. The colours again vary from bright orange through to Vanilla (which is my absolute favourite). The flowers resemble carnations in a way, as they are extremely full with lots and lots of small petals all crunched together to form a beautiful ball of flower. These make great fillers for flowerbeds as they have lush green foliage as well as the gorgeous tall-stemmed flowers, which if you combine colours and maybe add French Marigolds at the front of the bed, would make a stunning display.
##PLANTING FROM SEEDS & CONDITIONS##
This has to be one of the easiest things I have done and is one of the favoured seeds amongst schools and playgroups as they are quite large and easy for children to handle. I harvested all my seeds from existing plants, which is a very cheap way of filling your garden the following year, as long as you have room to propagate.
To do this, once the flower has died, cut it from the stem just below the bulbous bit at the base of the flower. If you pull off the dead petals, inside you will see a whole pod of seeds which, if the flower has matured enough (and if it is dead, it should be) will make the seeds very loose and easy to remove.
Drop the seeds into some seed trays and propagate in the dark if you can for a week or so. Once the small seed heads have appeared, move to the green house or wherever you will keep them and let them grow and strengthen.
You can plant Marigolds out in the garden as soon as there is no chance of frost, usually mid April. They are pretty hardy plants, so will survive being a bit nippy, but not freezing conditions. Water in well and keep an eye on the slugs, as they do like the taste of the French variety especially. I lost a whole batch (when I started gardening through lack of knowledge) in one night! They like full sun and will cope very well in a heat wave as long as they get watered every now and then. With a hosepipe ban and a sweltering July this year my Marigolds stood firm while the Cape Daisy and the Geraniums wilted.
They are not fussy when it comes to soil either. We have very thick, clay based soil in our garden, and they have grown happily in this, as well as in the raised bed, where we have shop bought compost and soil. As long as they are not water clogged they seem to thrive, even in part shaded areas. This is one plant I can rely on to stay alive through neglect and bad conditions and therefore keep the garden looking pretty for a long period through the spring and summer months. Even into Autumn at times the Marigolds are still showing their citrus heads for us.
If you dead head regularly, as with most types of flower, they will reward you with more and more blooms and of course if you keep the seeds, you will be rewarded again the following year.
Overall this is one my favourite bedding plants. It is a shame they are only annuals as it would be nice if they just returned year after year without having to replant and sow the seeds. However if you leave it until late May, you may be able to simply sow the seeds directly into your flowerbeds and avoid the whole propagation process altogether. This is sometimes preferred due to ease, but it will also mean a less organised approach to your flowerbed, as you will find seeds growing up out of line and in bunches rather than singular plants. At times this is a favoured look though and will not matter, but if you are planting for a specific appearance or display you will need to know what you are planting where.
The Marigold is a great cutting flower and will last up to about a week in fresh water if you strip the leaves from the stem. I would plump for the African version rather than French though, due to its sturdier stem and height. Alternatively they make excellent dried flowers as they keep their attractive orangey/yellow colours very well.
Very few pests and diseases bother the Marigold, due to its rather strong smell. It is not unpleasant but it doesn’t resemble the perfume of roses for instance or Jasmine. It is a more herby kind of smell, which is pungent when you are close to the plant but not overpowering. This is an insect repellent in itself, however it is not enough to deter the hungry slug!
All in all for a dramatic display of vibrant colours and full petalled flowers, I would plump for Marigolds every time and intersperse with less robust plants for a good mixture.
Plant and enjoy!
Summary: A beautiful vibrant flower for your garden.