Good as gold

Marigolds bring the warmth of Mexico into your garden

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Hanging bonfire

Signet marigolds aren't commonly used in hanging containers, but their soft, mounding habit and attractive, ferny foliage are well-suited for aerial display. Here, Sunset test garden coordinator Bud Stuckey paired a bicolored signet called 'Paprika' (top) with orange-red Lantana 'Radiation' (center) and parrot's beak (Lotus berthelotii; bottom), whose trailing silver-gray stems are dotted with flowers that look like tiny flames. He used a terra-cotta pot (13 in. wide and 9 in. deep) and suspended it with metal twist hangers.

A nursery shopper's guide to marigolds

Most marigolds sold by nurseries fall into one of the three types described below. In late spring and early summer, you'll find a dazzling selection in sixpacks and 4-inch containers. Buy healthy plants loaded with unopened buds. If you can't find all the kinds you like, especially bushy heirloom types, two good seed sources are Nichols Garden Nursery ( www.nicholsgardennursery.com or 800/422-3985) and Seeds of Change ( www.seedsofchange.com or 888/762-7333). If starting from seed, sow seeds directly in the ground in a sunny spot when soil temperatures reach 70°.

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