Nothing really announces the arrival of the summer fire colour parade quite like Calendulas! Though I came relatively late (in the last four or five years) to appreciating the complexity of these unassuming beauties, I'm a diehard fan of them now. Though they're a little late to arrive this year (again, blame the April weather!), today I spotted the first open bloom and just had to capture it. There are a lot more just poised to carry on the show, but this lovely yellow one chose to take the starring role this weekend. Though it too, like the latest summer movie blockbuster, will have to cede the limelight at some point, thus allowing the others their chance at dazzling passersby. And honestly, I'd rather go Calendula watching than see most of what Hollywood hurls at our senses during the summer months! (Though I will admit to eagerly awaiting Michael Moore's new film SICKO, as well as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)
Calendula officinalis is not an uncommon plant, but not one we see in too many gardens around town. As you'll see from the Wikipedia link above, Calendulas have more than an ornamental use in the garden ... whether as a tea, in salads or used as a topical ointment for skin problems. In fact, Tom's of Maine (makers of herbal organic toiletry items) even markets a quite nice Calendula deodorant that works really well. (LOL, no hints, just the facts....)
Growing Calendulas is really pretty simple, and they're another flower that we've happily allowed to reach weed status in the front garden, where they confine themselves pretty much to two separate areas at opposite ends of the boulder bed. When you plant the seeds, you'll need to get them in pretty early in the spring, ideally before the ground has warmed up much so they'll have plenty of time to mature, bloom and drop seed for subsequent years' flowers. Otherwise (and this applies especially to those in warmer climates --hey FAR!) you can sow them in the fall after frost but before the ground has frozen and they'll come up the following spring. Just let them progress through their cycle, cut a few if you want, but let them just form their seed heads and when they're dry in the fall, sometime before the snow flies (if you see snow), just break them up and scatter them around the area you'd like them to start colonizing. Though they never get truly invasive here, they do tend to congregate in their areas and come up thickly. You can, if you like, carefully transplant seedlings when they're about 2-3" tall to more appropriate places in the border. As long as they have mostly full sun and adequate water, they'll bloom profusely for you from about June to September, depending on the weather.
Long time readers may remember last year's Summer Sports post, which was devoted to how some of our orange Calendulas had mutated into multiple bloom sports. This is a phenomenon we've seen with several annuals in the garden ... not just calendulas, but celosias and just this past week one of the young Blanket Flower plants along the walk. (I'll be a doing a specific post on this one soon....) I'm anxious to see if we get any more multiple blooming (e.g. 6-8 flowers!) mutants in the orange ones this year, or if it was merely a one time aberration ... I'll keep you posted on that one!
Notes on the photos: Taken June 24, 2007 by IVG. The first shot is the début artiste in brilliant yellow ... the second is a bud soon to open, most likely an orange one ....