Calendulas lend border beauty

One of the most popular, and for that matter most colorful and easiest to grow, annuals for borders, especially around patios, is calendula. It also goes under the more common name of pot marigold.

Since the calendula thrives in mild climates, no garden should be without this steady bloomer.In fact, it does very well in Northern cooler weather, where flowers appear sturdier and brighter in the cool spring, late summer, and early fall.

Sow seeds directly in the garden or indoors before spring and then transplant them outside as the weather warms up. Each seedling should be about two inches high. The newer Pacific strain of calendulas resists hot weather perfectly and blooms profusely even during the hot months of summer.

This Pacific strain boasts a full range of colors from apricot, lemon, and flame to persimmon or an unusual creamy white. Ordinarily, most gardeners think or marigolds in the round form. But now you can have a more exotic-shaped flower for any gardener's taste.

A special variety with bright orange petals called Radar is now on the market. Another, which has in-curved petals similar to the Japanese chrysanthemum and is named Geisha Girl, is a favorite. A third is a crested species that originated in Germany but was perfected in the United States.

The German variety comes in a mixture of colors, but each plant has the same shape of guard petals, which are flat around the outside but with a crested center, made up of tiny quill-like tubes.

Besides offering an array of colors, one variety serves gardeners very well in warding off garden pests, as reported by the Agricultural Research Service, part of the US Department of Agriculture. The Golden Marigold, Tagetes minuta,m a common South African variety, is helpful in ridding garden soil and crops of nematodes, those tiny parasitic worms.

Gardeners could plant this variety to keep the soil in good condition before they plant tomato, corn, beans, or other crops, and could continue a fringe of marigolds as sentinels around the garden border during the growing season, right up to harvest, to guard against the return of any nematodes.

Other choices of small marigolds, especially for borders, are the Mexican or Signet varieties, which are listed in garden catalogs under the botanical name of Tagetes. Golden Gem, Yellow Gem, and Ursula (gold with an orange eye) all raise a dainty flower on a 7-inch plant, with the flowers resembling miniature single marigolds.

Whatever you select, your ga rden will be bright with color all through the growing season with the hardy but easy-to-grow marigold.

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