GARDENING: There’s an Indian feel to this year’s marigolds

Marigold Indian Kushi. Picture by Suttons
Marigold Indian Kushi. Picture by Suttons

You’re going to find marigolds everywhere this year – not in the hideous, ’70s-style bedding rows with lobelia and alyssum, but think more tropical, Indian garland style.

I love Calendula but have never warmed to marigolds, until I saw a huge container overflowing with blooms at Harlow Carr last September – wow!

Mexican Meadow Mix. Picture by Sarah Raven

Mexican Meadow Mix. Picture by Sarah Raven

In this pick of the year, I’ve chosen not just North and South American natives Tagetes but included Calendula (English pot marigolds) – the common name marigold comes from “Mary’s gold”, first used for Calendula officinalis, so it seems rather fitting.

Cultivated Tagetes are known as African marigolds (usually cultivars and hybrids of the rather tall T. erecta), or French marigolds (hybrids and cultivars of smaller T. patula, many of which were developed in France). Triploid multi-coloured marigolds are a hybrid between African and French types.

Fill your boots – bit please don’t plant them in lines – these are flowers with a wild spirit, so let it flow.

Marigold Strawberry Blonde, Plants of Distinction, £2.95, www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk
This French marigold is lauded in many catalogues this year and for good reason – it’s a breakthrough in breeding with multicoloured blooms on a single plant. Flowers open a soft shade of strawberry-pink or peach melba with a rustic yellow crest later ageing to a straw-yellow colour. Tolerant of bad weather, giving a long display in containers, beds and borders. Height 25cm.

Calendula Snow Princess, Thompson & Morgan, 99p, www.thompson-morgan.com
Another new bloom on the block that’s all over the place – a world-first pure white English pot marigold. The flowers seem to change colour too – the petals have a yellow underside and bud, but as they open, the white topside is revealed, surrounding a large brown or yellow central eye. Each semi-double flower is 7.5cm across. Height 40-50cm.

Marigold Indian Kushi, Suttons, £4.99 for 20 seeds, www.suttons.co.uk
The first Indian marigold on the UK market, inspired by the garlands created for weddings and occasions throughout the subcontinent. Kushi means ‘Joy’ in Hindi. With longer stems, it’s ideal for cutting. Flowers July-September. Height 60-70cm.

Marigold French Durango Red, Marshalls, £2.99, www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk
Anemone flowered French marigold with intense rich-red blooms with a hint of golden edging to each petal. Height 25cm.

Calendula DT Brown Cut Flower Mixed Flower Seeds, DT Brown, £1.99, www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk
A mixture of singles, doubles and semi-doubles, superb for attracting beneficial insects and excellent for cutting.

African Marigold three in one Collection, Unwins, £4.99, www.unwins.co.uk
Tricolor collection of orange Crackerjack, white Kilimanjaro and Perfection Yellow. Height 35cm.

French Marigold Alumia Crème Brûlée, Mr Fothergill’s, £3.25, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

Slightly taller than traditional French Marigolds with unusual, large open semi-double blooms boldly flecked with red. Height 25cm.

Mexican Meadow Mix, Sarah Raven, was £3.95 now £2.76, www.sarahraven.com
A tall mix of yellow and orange flowers native to Central America – coneflowers, marigolds, zinnias and tithonia (Mexican sunflowers). Height 60-100cm.

Calendula Coffee Cream, Plants of Distinction, £2.35, www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk Unusual cream petals with coffee-coloured reverse. Height 45cm.

Calendula Indian Prince, Higgledy Garden, £1.95, www.higgledygarden.co.uk
One of the most striking Calendulas available – as owner Ben says: “A fiery lava colour greets the retinas like an old friend. It looks amazing in a vase with Blue Ball cornflowers and Cosmos Purity.” Height 75cm.

French Marigold Alumia Vanilla Cream, Dobies, £2.49, www.dobies.co.uk
A British-bred variety in a unique primrose colour, a first for French marigolds. Its flowers are edible, with a citrusy taste. Height 25cm.

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

Dahlai tubers stored over winter (or bought this year) can be started into growth. Place them in a light, warm place to sprout before planting. They will need misting with a spray bottle to stop them drying out.

Divide and/or plant bulbs “in the green” (actively growing), such as snowdrops (Galanthus) and winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis).

Prepare beds for new roses when conditions allow. Avoid wet days and frozen ground.

Buy a pH soil-testing kit, available from garden centres, so you can choose the correct plants for the site in question, and allow you to rectify any nutrient deficiencies.

Clear up weedy beds before mulching. Lighter soils can be mulched now, but heavier soils are best left until March, when the soil is warmer.

Top dress spring-flowering alpines with grit or gravel to show off the plants and to help prevent stem rots. Remove dead leaves from around the basal rosettes of alpine plants to prevent rotting.

Cut out the top rosette of leaves from the leggy stems of Mahonia x media cultivars to encourage branching.

Mulch and feed shrubs, trees, hedges and climbers after pruning, to give them energy for the extra growth they will put on after cutting back.

Begonia, Gloxinia and Achimenes tubers can all be planted this month. Begonias and gloxinias need to be planted hollow side upwards; Achimenes can be planted on their sides, in trays if necessary, before potting them once growth appears.

In cold frames, greenhouses or polytunnels, sow beetroot, broad beans, summer and autumn cabbage, carrots, kales, leeks, lettuce and spring onions. These can all be sown in trays or plugs to be planted out towards the end of March.

Start sowing bedding plants such as impatiens, violas and pansies in a heated propagator. Transplant when seedlings are forming their third or fourth leaf. This can take anywhere between four and six weeks.

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