Good as gold

Marigolds bring the warmth of Mexico into your garden

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  • An all-marigold border designed by Sunset's Bud Stuckey is fronted from left to right by 'Paprika' 'Tangerine Gem' 'Bonanza Bolero' and 'Disco Flame'.

    Marigolds Border

    Thomas J. Story

    Click to Enlarge

Marigolds, you see, are made for summer. To meet the demands of their native lands ― chiefly Mexico and Central America ― members of the marigold family (genus Tagetes) had to flourish in hot sun as well as tolerate poor soils and infrequent rain. These qualities make them one of the most foolproof summer annuals, whether you plant them in the ground or in a container. The taller varieties make long-lasting cut flowers, and the petals of signet types are edible. The leaves have another bonus: Like other plants whose foliage contains volatile oils, such as lavender and rosemary, marigolds seem to repel many harmful insects while attracting beneficial ones. This makes them excellent for planting among summer vegetables.

While some gardeners don't like the smell of marigolds, they're perfume to Shapiro. He finds their scent "rich, complex ― absolutely intoxicating." The perfume industry seems to agree: It uses marigold oil the way it does musk, to add depth to fragrances.

Keep the flowers coming

To prolong bloom on African and French marigolds, remove spent flowers regularly. Pinch the stem under the flower head firmly and give it a snap. For tall African types, avoid overhead sprinkling ― the double flowers can catch so much water that the stems break under the weight.




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