Herbs in Bloom: A Guide to Growing Herbs As Ornamental Plantsby Jo Ann Gardner
Now in paperback, Herbs in Bloom is a delightful A–Z selection of 80 favorite groups of flowering herbs. Full of detailed information on how to grow each herb from seed or cuttings, the book offers systematic advice on site selection, soils, transplanting, and other practical concerns. Over 700 herbs are included in all. In the author's words, "It is my aim to convince fellow gardeners that herbs also have beautiful flowers and can be used to advantage anywhere in the landscape."
- Timber Press, Incorporated
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- 6.40(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.19(d)
Read an Excerpt
In their native Mediterranean habitat, calendulas bloom almost every month of the year. This unusual characteristic is preserved in the plant's name, derived from the Latin calendae, meaning "through the months." Plants grow on erect and brittle stems with oval, light green, clasping leaves as long as 6 in. (15.2 cm) at the base. Each stem carries a daisy-like flowerhead 1.5–3 in. (3.8–7.6 cm) across, with pale yellow to deep orange rays in several rows and sometimes with a chocolate-brown center. In common with other members of the family, calendulas close at sunset and open in the morning, damp with dew as Shakespeare described. The whole plant is covered with little hairs that give it a sticky feeling. When bruised, the flowers and leaves give off a peppery aroma.
This plant, rather than the French or African marigold (Tagetes), is the marigold of past literature. It was primarily valued as an easily accessible and edible vegetable with nearly evergreen leaves. Its petals, high in vitamin A, were stored in barrels and sold by the ounce to impart their rich, orange-yellow color to cheese and butter or to give a smooth texture to soups and stews. Their lathering, thickening, and soothing properties are due to the presence of saponin, for which calendula flowers were and still are used in preparations to soothe and heal cuts and bruises.
Because of its easygoing disposition and its ability to produce blooms over a long period — from early summer through successive frosts or from winter to spring in warmer areas — it has been called a workhorse of the ornamental garden. Variations of the simple cottage garden flower come and go,some with double flowers to 4 in. (10.2 cm) wide with quilled petals like mums, others with unusual crested centers. Some are dwarf to 12 in. (30.5 cm), need less deadheading, and are suitable for containers. One of the most popular Calendula officinalis seed strains is the vigorous Pacific Beauty Mixed that produces plants 18–24 in. (45.7–61.0 cm) tall, with large, wide, double flowers that remain loose enough to reveal an occasional dark center. These come in the full range of calendula colors — cream, bright yellow, brilliant orange, apricot, and even orange petals with mahogany-red undersides. In the cultivar 'Touch of Red' the theme is elaborated so that the backsides of petals in the full color range are all literally touched with red.
Various calendulas are suitable for different situations. The old-fashioned, cottage garden flower can be left to self-sow in a dooryard planting with other annuals such as poppies (Papaver) and larkspur (Delphinium); the heirloom cultivar Calendula officinalis 'The King', large, double, and orange, can be interplanted along a narrow border with dark blue cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) and spreading mats of white sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima). As temperatures fall in late summer these colors gain intensity. The dwarf 'Bon Bon' will grow attractively in a tub with other herbs handy for picking. In the cutting and harvesting bed I plant a solid block of bright orange and yellow calendulas between blocks of light green lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma). The tall, elegant Pacific Beauty Mixed and 'Touch of Red' plants, with their harmonious blend of colors, are easiest to fit into a perennial planting. 'Touch of Red' and the hardy red rose, Rosa 'Champlain', are striking companions in a perennial bed.
Sow calendula seeds outdoors in late spring or whenever the soil temperature reaches 60°F (16°C). Choose a site in full sun or in partial shade in warmer climates. In Zones 8–10, sow seeds outdoors in late summer for winter bloom. Calendulas will grow in a wide range of soils but will produce the most flowers in well-drained, rich loam. Thin seedlings 9–15 in. (22.9–38.1 cm) apart. Once established, calendulas will self-sow, eventually all reverting to the original cottage garden flower. Combat this degeneration by saving seeds of favorites or by refreshing the planting with purchased seed. The old-fashioned cottage garden calendula, the cultivars, and the strains are available from general seed, specialty seed, and herb sources.
Dried and powdered calendula petals, called poor man's saffron, can be used in rice and grain dishes for flavor and color. Small, whole flower heads or petals can be candied as described for Borago officinalis. Dried flowers and petals are colorful additions to citrus-scented potpourri with lemon balm and bee balm. The Pacific Beauty flowers are exceptional in bouquets; pick them when the buds are just opening.
Meet the Author
Jo Ann has written for numerous publications including Horticulture, Country Journal, Old House Journal, Garden Magazine, and Herb Quarterly. She is also a member of the Garden Writers Association. Jo Ann Gardner currently resides in the foothills of the Adirondacks in New York's lush Champlain Valley where she and her husband, Jigs, are reestablishing a small farm and garden. They are involved in volunteer work for the local nursing home, where they are developing extensive gardens.
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