How does 9 months of striking colour sound? Check out this easy growing guide for beginner gardeners.
If you need a pop of colour in the garden that endures Spring, Summer and Autumn, then you really can’t go past a French Marigold. With a long list of benefits for the garden and in the home, as well as being a gorgeous cut flower, you won’t mind that these scented beauties will re-seed every year.
Botanical Name: Tagetes Patula
While I had tried a number of varieties of French Marigold’s over the years, many bought from quick potted colour stands at various local and big box nurseries, I have found that the most hardy variety for our area is the retro striped “Court Jester” French Marigold. An annual heirloom variety, it’s bushy underneath, however its stems stand tall to the sun, flowering endlessly and tolerating all sorts of weather up here in these green hills. It’s nine months of easy colour. Who wouldn’t want that in their garden, seriously?!
I obtained these seeds from a fellow backyard grower via the magical seed savers of EBay! My tip is to scroll through the search for seeds that you want, and try and get a grower that is most local to you. This ensures the seeds are climatised for your area, or as close to it as possible!
Here’s just some of the reasons you will love these harlequin beauties:
Bees and Butterflies love them!
The French Marigold is certainly one of the most planted annual flowers in the whole wide world. They have a fabulous reputation as a stand out companion plant for vegetables, such as tomatoes, and are used by cottage gardeners to attract important and much loved pollinators like bees and butterflies.
They propagate ever so quickly.
It’s best to plant them in early-late Spring, about 1cm deep with a quarter of a teaspoon of fertiliser sprinkled around the top. It’s important to keep the soil moist for the first 10-20 days. The seeds will take 1-2 weeks to germinate. Best of all, they are very simple and easy for gardening beginners, who will be growing their first flowers seeds in no time at all.
They are sun-lovin' summer lovers.
While these happy patterned plants love full sun, in our hot summer's, where it can get over 40 degrees Celsius, they do need afternoon shade. Popping them in this afternoon shade ensures they’ll last the entire 9 month stint in your garden.
Not fussy about soil, you can grow them in sand, loam, clay or pots, they just don’t like wet feet, so ensure that the soil is free draining. Best news is, you don’t have to fertilise them, as they seem to put on more flowers, and less foliage, in poorer soils.
As you can see below, you must deadhead your French Marigolds regularly for a number of reasons, which include:
- encouraging regular blooming
- avoiding the plant wilting and going to seed
- keeping flower heads for seed -saving.
It’s really easy to snap off the flower heads and drop them all over the ground so they will self-seed later. I usually do this during the balmy summer nights on my nightly evening garden walk (best done with a glass of local wine in one hand, leaving the other free to sprinkle seeds). You can also pop the flower heads straight into a brown paper bag to dry inside and then you can satisfyingly crack open the dry seed heads in early spring to sprinkle into seed trays. Keep them moist and warm and they will surely spring to life in no time at all.
Ensure that you prick our their first three flowers, so that the plant bushes out to each side, then there will be more blooms for the life of it’s growing season if you do this at the beginning.
It’s also a green manure.
All types of Marigolds are extremely popular with Permaculture and market gardeners, many gardeners plant them to stop nematodes, cabbage worms, whitefly, aphids and many other vegetable and foliage damaging insects.
These darling plants also lure and woo useful insects like praying mantis, lacewings and ladybirds with their beautiful scent.
I know a couple of adventurous experimental gardeners who have used the spent foliage at the end of the season to chop up and turn it into the soil, as a green manure, with the aim of keeping soil-borne nematodes at bay. They believe that it has been successful and now I must give this a try. It would also be a great addition to the compost heap.
Who can go past bright colours and scent?
It’s hard to pass by this striped beauty, with all its benefits. I adore plants that have a retro look and feel to them and the “Court Jester” certainly sparked my interest as an attractive plant when first I laid eyes on it.
Because of the exquisite harlequin-reminiscent striped colours, combined with the variation of block burgundy petals featuring a perfectly round yellow bauble of pollen in the centre, I find they make an interesting cut flower arrangement for inside the home also.
If you do plant them in a mostly sunny spot, the flowers will grow long stems that erect towards the sunshine, its possible to get a stem 20-30 cm long, which is quite a tall marigold in comparison to some of the hybrid store-bought varieties that we have taken home and planted previously.
This heirloom variety has a wonderfully refreshing and strong, clean, almost soap-like yet floral smell. I think their petals would make a great addition to dried potpourri or to homemade soaps due to this incredibly pleasing scent and in a vase they are sure to make any room of the house smell just beautiful.
If you like what you hear, this pretty little flower might be just for you....
These striking retro hardy heirlooms are just so pretty, after one season we are clearly hooked and they will surely remain in both our vegetable and flower gardens forever.
The brilliant news is that they will grow in most parts of Australia and will impart a gloriously impressive and scattered display, so if you love stripes and pops of colour, be sure to get your hands on some of these amazing seeds.