Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Marigolds aren’t the prettiest flower in the garden bed. Nor do they smell that great. But, marigolds are worth planting for any number of reasons.
Perhaps highest on the list is their ability to protect your tomato plants from insect damage. They emit chemicals called thiophene and alpha-terthienyl which repels aphids, white flies, nematodes and tomato worms. Planted around tomato plants, they also form a snail and slug barrier.
Marigolds are an annual, easily grown from seed. There are two kinds of marigolds, African and French. Despite their names, both are native to North and Central America. And both are members of the daisy family along with sunflowers, coneflowers, zinnias, asters and yarrow.
The African marigold (Tagetes erecta) is the larger of the two, reaching 1 to 2 feet tall with five inch flowers. Also called the Aztec marigold, it is used in the Mexican holiday "Dia de los muertos" or day of the dead. The Day of the Dead originated from Aztec mythology to honor the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacihuti. It was a symbol of life after death.
The French marigold (Tagetes patula ) is not French, and it’s unclear why it is called French. It is shorter and bushier than the African marigold with smaller flowers. French marigolds are a symbol of beauty and creativity. In Spain, they were planted near statues of the Virgin Mary, hence their name “Mary’s gold.”
When planting marigolds, they need five to six hours of sunshine. They are happy in containers as well as being planted directly into the ground. Occasional fertilizer and regular watering is all that is needed.
Marigolds are considered an herb, as they are used both medicinally and are edible. The flowers contain lutein which is used to treat eye disorders. The flowers are also ani-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. The orange-yellow flowers also contain carotene which is used as a flood coloring. And the flowers are edible. Marigolds attract pollinators like bees and butterflies and are resistant to damage by deer, rabbits, and squirrels.
Finally, while tomatoes love marigolds, they are not loved by beans or cabbage and should not be planted near them in the vegetable garden.
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
As summer approaches, more and more old fashioned flowers are catching my eye. I’m guessing that it’s nostalgia for simpler times, or memories of my grandparents’ garden or their sweet fragrance and soft colors that attract my attention.
Even today, many a garden will have one or two old fashioned flowers, such as …peonies, sweet pea, roses, hollyhocks, lily of the valley, foxglove and snapdragons, to name a few.
Among the easiest to grow and care for are the snapdragons. Propagated from seed, they flower from spring to fall in colors of yellow, purple, rose, pink, red and white. Like many old fashion flowers, they have a sweet fragrance that is stronger at night.
If you have a deck or patio, they are happy in containers and make fine cut flowers. As for pollinators, they attract both bees and hummingbirds. Varieties have delightful names like Madam Butterfly, Lucky Lips, Cinderella, and the Black Prince.
Hardy in Zones 7 - 10, snapdragons are grown as annuals in Michigan. Depending on the variety and soil conditions, they grow two to five feet tall. They are native to the Mediterranean and western North America.
Medicinally, snapdragon flowers are anti-inflammatory and have been used to treat external wounds. The flowers are also edible and can garnish salads and deserts, although their flavor is not particularly tasty.
The name snapdragon comes from their tendency to “snap” when the sides of the blooms are pressed together. The flowers are also said to resemble dragon faces.
Symbolically, the snapdragon represents grace and strength although some believe it has a dark side, symbolizing deception. In Medieval Europe, it was used to ward off bad luck.