One late summer morning, Florrie Labradoodle and I headed out for our usual daily walk. As we wandered along, we noticed a plant growing in a crack in the pavement. Not only was it growing well, it also had some big yellow flower heads! It was a Calendula (otherwise known as “pot marigold” or “common marigold”).
Our garden faces south. In mid summer it can become a hot, dry habitat for plants. There is not much rain and many plants struggle in the conditions. Yet here was a plant that seemed to be thriving in a soilless and waterless tarmac world!
As calendula flowers die back, they produce a seed head like a big circular disc. So on my walk with Florrie a couple of weeks later, I picked one of the seed heads to store over winter. I thought that if this plant could grow well in a crack in the pavement then maybe it could do the same in my hot dry garden!
Calendulas are much more than a bright colourful flower in the garden. The dye from their flowers has been used for centuries for colouring fabrics, cosmetics and foods such as cheese. It has been used as a saffron substitute. The petals can be dried and a oil produced which allegedly reduces inflammation and heals skin wounds.
I left the calendula seed head in the garage over winter to dry out. The following spring I had around 15 individual seeds to plant. I lightly covered them with compost in a seed tray in the greenhouse. I gave them some water and waited excitedly for something to happen. Within a week, a few seeds were already sprouting. A couple of weeks later I had a full tray of healthy looking seedlings!
The rest was quite straightforward. When the calendula seedlings were large enough I transferred them to their homes for the summer! Some I grew in pots and some I placed directly into the flower borders. Unlike some marigolds, the slugs and snails left them alone!
It has been quite a hot spring this year but my calendulas have enjoyed it! Within a couple of weeks the first flower buds were forming. Then before long the blooms were open. They were a vibrant yellow, just like the original plant growing in the pavement! With regular dead heading, I am sure they will flower all summer! Hopefully for a few more summers too if I remember to save more seed heads!
Funnily enough, Florrie and I were out for our walk this week and we saw more calendula plants flowering close to the same crack in the pavement as last year! Everything has come full circle!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2019:
The flowers in the pavement have a very cheerful colour. It was nice to see a photo of them in your garden as well. The combination of yellow and pink flowers is lovely.