I've always had a bit of an aversion to marigolds...not the rubber gloves, the flowers.
I think it might be down to 1950's overkill along with municipal bedding associations, plus they really did seem to proliferate in the gardens of my childhood, and the smell seemed very peculiar, not a pleasant one.
I found this picture just to confirm that I wasn't imagining it all..
This must be 1962 and one of the few colour pictures I have of us all together back in the days when photography was all very expensive. One roll of colour film was bought for the Kodak Brownie camera and a list of eight essential pictures was compiled. There's my brother in his Mitcham Boy's Grammar School uniform, the first in our family to pass the eleven plus (thankfully I was the second) and my mum wearing her home-made dress, me in my favourite smocked number, my dad standing proudly at the back, and all of us fronting hundreds of marigolds.
But I found a packet of African Marigold seeds in the Tinker's kitchen drawer. They were years and years out of date so I wasn't expecting much, and who knows why he kept them. He was ace at clearing out the unnecessary was my dad; he has made this year very easy for us...if it was still there it was there for a reason, all I have had to do is figure out why.
'Ah well... I use that for...'
And it would be something completely sensible and clever, and I'd go and get my own piece of string and do likewise.
To my surprise up popped the marigolds in their seed tray, but disappearing to a rogue slug as fast as they appeared. I still wasn't in love with them so wasn't really paying attention and only managed to salvage six plants, but having read somewhere that they are the best thing for keeping whitefly out of the greenhouse and off the tomatoes, I potted them up and let them do their thing.
And they have been beautiful and still are...good doers I think would best describe and now I can't imagine why I have been so averse.
All summer long we have had these splashes of brilliance in the greenhouse. They have really earned their keep, flowered and flowered and I suspect will carry on until first frosts, no sight of an aphid, and now I have seeds galore and will never be without them...
It's all a bit confusing. Originally a native of Mexico, it would seem the Flos Africanus came to Britain from N.Africa in the sixteenth century but was also found in Japan, China and India though not indigenous there either. John Evelyn was growing them in his garden in the seventeenth century so a good pedigree but I wonder whether there is a class prejudice to all this flower-growing now.
Are some flowers just out of fashion..
Bookhound read somewhere recently that chrysanthemums were the flower of the working classes, and I wonder whether marigolds suffer the same fate. I had a quick browse through my books and was delighted to find that Christopher Lloyd, in his letters to Beth Chatto, talks up the humble marigold, planting some for October colour in amongst the nasturtiums, whilst acknowledging that Beth hates them and would never consider such a thing.
This magnificently illustrated people's history celebrates the extraordinary feats of cultivation by the working class in Britain, even if the land they toiled, planted, and loved was not their own. Spanning more than four centuries, from the earliest records of the laboring classes in the country to today, Margaret Willes's research unearths lush gardens nurtured outside rough workers' cottages and horticultural miracles performed in blackened yards, revealing the ingenious, sometimes devious, methods employed by determined, obsessive, and eccentric workers to make their drab surroundings bloom. She also explores the stories of the great philanthropic industrialists who provided gardens for their workforces, the fashionable rich stealing the gardening ideas of the poor, alehouse syndicates and fierce rivalries between vegetable growers, flower-fanciers cultivating exotic blooms on their city windowsills, and the rich lore handed down from gardener to gardener through generations. This is a sumptuous record of the myriad ways in which the popular cultivation of plants, vegetables, and flowers has played--and continues to play--an integral role in everyday British life.
Setting all past prejudice aside I shall certainly be considering Marigolds every year from now on.
How about you...like or loath...
And has anyone read Margaret Willes's book...