Arbor Gate's Picks of the Month
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Not all herbs are used primarily in cooking. With their culinary, aromatic, medicinal, economic, and purely decorative qualities, herbs are often referred to as “the useful plants.” Each month’s herb pick for 2018 will feature an example of the many and varied uses for herbs that can be grown in our region.
And in all cases, no matter what the herb, Arbor Gate Complete Soil and Arbor Gate Blend Fertilizer are recommended from transplanting throughout the life of the plant, whether in the garden or containers. Both will provide what your plants need: organic, well balanced, and enriched growing mediums, year around.
Twenty or so species of hardy annuals, perennials, and evergreen subshrubs make up the calendula genus that is distributed throughout Mediterranean and other regions worldwide. But only C. officinalis and its cultivars are common in cultivation as ornamentals as well as for culinary and medical uses. The calendula most common in our area is also called Pot Marigold, with “Marigold” referring to its links with the Virgin Mary.
No matter whether it is called “calendula” or “pot marigold”, the C. officinalis has become a very popular annual in Southern flower gardens because where winters are reasonably mild, it will bloom from Fall into Spring.
Many gardeners who grow pot marigold have no idea that it was once grown as a potherb, a vegetable to be used in the cooking pot. The young leaves are tender and edible, the mature more bitter. A medicinal tea and soothing skin lotion can be made from the dried flower petals, which are also a popular addition to potpourris. And the many varieties of calendula produce blooms often sold as cut flowers.
Though easily propagated from seed, calendula is widely available as a bedding plant, usually in Fall and Winter in the South. The plants achieve 1 to 2 feet in height and look best when planted in mass. They need good garden soil, average water, and full Winter sun. On a sunny day, the calendula’s brilliant colors are truly a bright spot in the wintry landscape.