This May, at the Women’s Institute Plant Sale, I picked up one of Anna Helmer’s marigold starts. I have managed to keep it alive, despite the toddler’s attempts to eat it, deluge-water it, and dig it up. And it is now a monster of blooms and vigour – nothing like the tragic little marigolds one picks up from any major Canadian retailer to protect the lettuce. (Note: most of those plants have been treated with neonicotinoids, a systemic insecticide that renders them fatal to bees and other pollinators.)
What’s the story with these marigolds? I asked Anna.
Here’s the full story, along with instructions on how to save the seed yourself.
Lovena Harvey, who (as an aside) used to grow Certified Organic vegetables on what is now the Pemberton Festival site, gave mom the seed years ago. Lovena doesn’t remember this at all, but mom is pretty sure. Mom had hosted a seed swap and all kinds of seeds were traded. A few weeks after sweeping out the house following the event, the most robust pot plant ever started to grow off the end of the porch. It was at least 6 feet high when the Emden geese ate the whole thing. So no pot plant for mom. However, there were these interesting marigold seeds…
Mom showed me how to save the seed and plant it and now I do a hundred or so and give them to the WI Plant Sale and to people who might like them. I love them as they are such a good landscaping solution- with minimal attention they get really big and bushy and block out all kinds of things. At their flowering peak at Slow Food Cycle Sunday, the magnificent Taj Mahal Marigold hedges protect broken-down machinery, compost heaps piled high with weeds just pulled in a frenzy of preparation, and maybe my sister who isn’t really a people person.
To save the seed yourself, pick off a few of the dried seed pods later in the fall. They should be as dry as possible and I grow one in the green house to ensure a good supply in the event of a wet fall. Try to select pods from the healthiest plants. Put the pods in a ziplock on an inside shelf over the winter. Then in the early spring, break open the pods. There are 50 or so spears inside. Each one is a seed. Poke one into a pot of soil, water, and wait. Do lots because not all of them will grow, plus now you see their potential and you might want hundreds for your own home landscaping solutions. Donate your extra plants to the WI plant sale. Plant outside. Repeat.
And for you pinterest-crafty types, or music festival goers, you can apparently make the flowers into necklaces, too. Check the story, here.