Two women came into the garden center last week looking for marigolds. When they learned we were out, their faces changed to ones of disappointment. Why anyone would be sad over marigolds is beyond me but I had to know why they were so desperate. The marigolds were meant to be table centerpieces for a combined anniversary/retirement/birthday party they were throwing for loved ones. Based on their flower selection, I resisted the urge to ask whether or not they actually liked the guests of honor. But instead asked simply, “Why marigolds?”
Until earlier this year, I hated marigolds. I thought they were obnoxious, particularly the red/yellow combinations. I can’t imagine why anyone would use them for anything other than a fall container arrangement in a pinch. Not to mention, they stink. Think paperwhites. I forced them last winter and my kids thought the dog snuck a pee somewhere in the house. So using marigolds as centerpieces at a dinner party would be like placing a caged skunk front and center and hoping no one asphyxiates.
Surprisingly, it was that attribute that had these women hell-bent on marigolds. The party was to be an outdoor celebration. They read somewhere that they keep insects at bay and their hope was that guests could enjoy their food without swatting away flies and wasps.
I can’t vouch for their effectiveness as an insect repellant, although they’re supposed to deter cabbage moths from destroying cabbage in the garden. I didn’t grow that this year. Planted in mass as a covercrop weeks before putting in a vegetable garden, marigolds can suppress nematodes, a type of roundworm that feeds on plant roots. Marigold roots contain a chemical, alpha-terthienyl, that damages nematodes when they feed on them.
A Marigold Convert
In May, I received a large package from All-America Selections (AAS), a national organization that tests brand new flower and vegetable varieties for home gardeners. For several years, I’ve received a box of small plants and seeds from AAS to trial in my garden. What plant lover doesn’t like a box full of plants?! I so look forward to it.
This year’s box contained two types of AAS award-winning marigolds, Big Duck Gold and Super Hero Spry. I wasn’t thrilled with their arrival, but found a spot for them in the veggie garden and waited. And then, weeks later, something wonderful happened. I found myself looking forward to one marigold plant.
Super Hero Spry was no great shakes. I still can’t get passed the red/yellow flower. I have a hard time with red in the garden as it is. But Big Duck was really something and he didn’t stink! As the season carried on and I grew tired of chores, I became a bit neglectful. Big Duck didn’t care. He just kept getting bigger and more handsome, sporting frilly golden yellow flowers the size of baseballs. I never attempted to deadhead. These days, certain garden tasks just get passed me. I’m relieved that my negligence didn’t phase him.
It’s nice being able to enjoy something that requires so little from you, yet gives so much. I think that’s why I’m so fond of Big Duck. It’s October 3, and he still looks pristine, resembling a healthy shrub more than a single annual plant. I’ll miss him when the cold weather zaps him in a few weeks. Never thought I’d say that about a marigold, let alone write an entire post about a plant I used to hate.
I’m not sure how he’ll jive in my flower beds, the color being pretty loud, but I’m certain Big Duck will have a home somewhere in my veggie garden in the years to come.
What plant have you grown to love?