Herb of the Year 2008


Calendula

Although Calendula is commonly called “Pot Marigold”, they are not in the same genus as the common marigold, Tagetes. (They are part of the same family, Asteraceae.) Pot marigold refers to its gold flowers that bloomed during the festivals celebrating the Virgin Mary and its use in cooking , or pots. Many gardeners simply grow calendula for their cheery bright flowers and profuse blooming. They are most commonly thought of as yellow and orange, but there are more subtle pink and cream varieties.

Description:

Calendula is in the same family as daisies and chrysanthemums, and the resemblance can be seen in their daisy-like flowers. The plants will bloom throughout the season. The leaves are slightly fussy and not the most attractive part of the plants. Although the petals have a lightly bitter flavor, they have no fragrance. They are used in all kinds of recipes, from butter to wine, but they are mostly favored for their intense color.

Design Suggestions:

Calendula make nice edging plants and grow well in containers. If you would like to use your calendula blossoms in cooking, be sure to grow them organically, either in the vegetable garden, flower border or pots.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Calendula officinalis “Pacific Beauty Mixed Colors” – This is a more heat tolerant variety of the traditional yellow and orange plants.
  • Calendula officinalis “Sherbet Fizz” – Soft blush tones with darker red undersides.
  • Calendula officinalis “Resina Calendula” – High resin content makes it popular for oils and tinctures.

Growing Tips: Calendula can be direct seeded in the spring or even summer, or they can be started indoors as transplants. They are very easy maintenance and, once established in your garden, they will self-seed, but they do not generally become a nusiance.

Rich soil and a full sun location will keep your calendula blooming, although they will adapt to most any soil conditions. Calendula will slow down in extreme heat, and warmer climates will have more success growing them as fall or early spring flowers. In more temperate areas, watering regularly will help keep them going in the peak of summer and your calendula will bloom until frost.

Do not be afraid to cut blooms from your calendula. It will only encourage more budding. In addition to their culinary uses, calendula are used in herbal medicine, as a dye plant and even as a cut flower.

Problems:

Virtually problem free.

Harvesting:

Collect calendula flowers in late morning, after the dew has dried. Pick flowers when they are fully open and check often, because they come and go quickly.

You can use fresh flowers or you can dry and store the blossoms for later use. Cut the flower heads off and spread them out on a screen, in a shady, dry spot. Turn them occasionally until they are papery dry and store in canning jars until ready to use.

 
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