The much loved and cultivated Marigold is a firm favourite in gardens around South Africa. Its discovery by the Portuguese in Central America is where it all began, seeing its introduction to Europe and Asia in the 16th century. Spanish explorers also took seeds to northern Africa and Spain, ensuring this beauty’s footprint was quite widespread.
The first documented use of Marigold, as herbs, dates back to a manuscript written in 1552. More recently, they are cultivated for use in dyes, medicines and ceremonies in both India and Pakistan. Garlands are probably the most widely used application of marigolds in religion, from Latin American culture to India in the Hindu ceremonies. They are used to decorate alters, honour gods and goddesses as well as decorate special guests.
According to the Language of Flowers, marigolds represent grief, which probably relates to their use at funerals. It is said that if a gravestone is covered in marigolds that the family is protected from negativity. This protection is most likely the reason for sprinkling yellow water, made from soaked marigolds, over people at the festival of Holi too!
Luckily, marigolds are not only revered for religious ceremonies and ancient medicinal practices. Just like all bedding plants, marigolds are an indispensable addition to your garden, bringing warmth with their rich colours and needing very little fussing over to be adequately cared for. Their many different shapes and size blooms can be found in shades of orange, yellow, red and bi-coloured.
The modern hybrids are very uniform in growth and stay compact, making them superb plants for a mixed border, a rockery or in areas where splashes of bold colour are needed. They also look very attractive when inter-planted with other annuals. Just be sure to pick complimentary annuals that also enjoy lots of sun, because theses sun loving faces love to bask.
If you’re under the impression that marigolds require lots of water and attention, don’t worry, it’s a common misconception. In reality, marigolds generally thrive with minimal care and once established, only strategic watering during dry spells. Remember to plant your marigolds in full sun in a well composted bed. To keep the blooming blooms (up to four months at a time), deadhead them regularly. Feed every six weeks with a balanced fertiliser but don’t forget that they are a water wise choice, so once they have settled in after transplanting, water infrequently.
If your veggie garden is plagued by insects and pests, you’ll be pleased to know that marigolds are a wonderful natural deterrent. Pop them in between your veggies today and see for yourself! It’s their strongly pungent foliage that drives those pesky insects away and their roots that seem to repel eelworm. Slugs, however, seem to have a voracious appetite for marigolds, which of course means that your vegetables get left alone! On another high note, bees and butterflies also find their gorgeously coloured blooms irresistible, so if you are planning a butterfly garden, marigolds are must!