Calendula oficinalis – Pot Marigold

The Romans discovered that the marigold bloomed on the first day of each month, and named it for the calendar.  Thus, the Latin term Calendula oficinalis.  Oficinalis is the word to indicate “official medical abilities” as accepted in a pharmacopoeia.  Calendula can bloom in Fall, Winter and Spring here, but usually gives up in the Summer.  Note: no part of this article is related to the hybrid marigold.  The word marigold is used interchangeably with calendula.

There are numerous pages written on the medicinal qualities of the calendula, including remedies for various conditions of the skin, Exzema, Inflammation, Bodily Discharges, Sprains, Bleeding, and Mood Elevation.  Culpeper and other seventeenth-century harbalists felt that the use of calendula could comfort the spirit.  He suggested a chest plaster of marigold steeped in lard, turpentine and rosin to ease the heart during intense fevers.  When I was growing up we always had calendula in the medicine cabinet in one form or another, and it was always growing in the kitchen garden.  Henry VIII used marigolds in his personal recipe “Medycyne for the Pestilence.”  In this he used a handful of marigold, sorrel, burnet, feverfew, and a half-handful of that old epidemic standy rue, as well as a few dragons (snapdragons, that is!).  He wrote “This tea, if it is taken before the pimples do apere, then yt will hele the syke person with God’s Grace.”

Marigold flowers were once used to produce perspiration when on the verge of a dangerous illness, particularly during epidemics of measles and smallpox.  Marigold was often used by English country people either in tea form, or as a posset (a drink made with hot milk, and curdled with either ale or wine, sometimes sweetened or spiced.)  The Garden’s Labyrinthe (1577) also describes marigold as a toothache aid – “The juice of the marigold petals mixed with vinegar to be rubbed on gums and teeth becomes a soveraigne remedy for the assuaging of the previous pain of the teeth.”  It was also once considered an excellent remedy for red eyes, and, like the regular marigold, it has been planted in the vegetable garden as an insect repellent for hundreds of years.

Calendula.petals

Calendula petals are available in dried form, as a tincture, pressed juice, ointment, or lotion.  Use them for a dash of color in green salads, potato or pasta salads and soups.  Or, sprinkle the petals on cake icing for a delightful springtime dessert.  Young leaves are tender and edible, the mature leaves bitter; a few petals in rice color it like saffron, and it can also be used to dye cloth.  According to some sources, Calendula originated in Egypt, where it’s flowers served as the original dye in cheeses.

Easy to grow from seed, this plant also readily self-sows.  A little seed goes a long way – the average number of seeds per lb is 72,554!

(This article is re-posted from an article I wrote in March 2008! but as I just planted some today I thought I’d post again!!!)

Road Trip! Austin, Texas Flower Show by Violet Crown Garden Club

A National Garden Club Standard Flower Show “Amazing Zilker” delighted the public at Zilker Botanical Garden on October 19 and 20, 2019. An especially well grown, vibrant green fern in a hanging basket got the judge’s attention in the horticulture division. Horticulture entries include cut foliage and cut flowers grown by exhibitors, and a wide variety of plants grown in containers. Landscape plants were especially challenging this year for gardeners in Austin due to unusually prolonged high temperatures and lack of rain in late summer after having good spring rains causing plants to put on a lot of foliage early only to be starved for rain water later. A truly green thumb was needed for plants to thrive enough to be entered in the flower show and be judged worthy of a first rating.

36+ design entries lined the walls of the auditorium, all around the Taniguchi Garden theme. The Taniguchi Garden is the Japanese garden at Zilker gardens and has been celebrated all year long. In the Taniguchi Garden, a stream of water leads visitors through a topiary pruned landscape with a waterfall, an arched bridge, stepping stones, bamboo, and colorful koi goldfish. Many of the plants used in this Japanese garden are native to area. Top awards for designs, or what some affectionately call fluffy ribbons, went to designs in petite category, in the Oriental manner category, and cascade design category. Four designs in each category were inspired by the theme outlined in the flower show schedule.  Designers get the show schedule weeks before the show so they can think on and put together a design, although some designers prefer to do last minute designing.  Themes included weathered wood, stone, and bamboo which were in the petite designer’s choice section, how many lanterns? An illuminary design, flashing golden koi: a reflective design, spirit of the garden: in the oriental manner, bamboo maple pittisporum: a creative line design, hidden waterfall: a cascade design, written in water: a low profile design, and for novice designers, The Oita Gate Welcomes You: Inner Peace and Natural Beauty designer’s choice.

National Garden Club Flower shows are judged before the show is open to the public. Judges are highly trained by completing coursework, a mentored period as student judges, participating and getting first ratings in flower shows, and continuing education. Guidelines for judges and entries are in the Handbook for Flower Shows by National Garden Clubs, Inc. A “ton” of volunteer work goes into putting on flower shows, most occurring before the show. A committee from the presenting club works hard behind the scenes so the public can enjoy and learn about floral designs and horticulture by seeing examples at the show.

Attending and/or participating in a flower show if you get the chance is highly recommended. You will learn something about our natural world and be inspired.

WHY YOU SHOULD NOT ADD GRAVEL TO YOUR CONTAINERS – BUSTING THE MYTH!

Every time you prepare a pot for planting you add a layer of gravel in the bottom for drainage! But, is it really necessary or not required at all?  Adding a layer of gravel, stones or pot shards in the bottom of the container is a common practice that most  gardeners (old or new or even experts) do. but do you really need to do this? New research and thinking says NO!

Containers.3

It is a myth that a layer of gravel inside the bottom of an individual pot beneath the soil improves container drainage. Instead of extra water draining immediately into and through the gravel, the water ‘perches’ or gathers in the soil just above the gravel. The water gathers until no air space is left. Only when all the available soil air space fills up does the excess water drain into the gravel below. So, gravel in the bottom does little to keep soil above it from being saturated by over watering. We know that plants need good drainage so that their roots can receive adequate oxygen, and we also know that water passes through a coarsely textured material faster than it does in fine material. But what we miss here is that water does not move easily from layers of finer textured materials to layers of more coarse-textured materials.  Don’t let the roots of your plants rot by sitting in excess water and depleted oxygen!   Plants like good drainage, especially those in containers. If water pools around plant roots too long, root rot will damage and possibly even kill the plant.

Gardening Container Gardens

 

Gravel fills space and adds unnecessary weight to the container.  Already, space is limited by cramming a plant’s root ball into a container; by adding a few inches of gravel, crocks or polystyrene ‘peanuts’ for drainage, it reduces the volume of soil available to plant roots.  Basically, it means you make a pot even smaller in size and as a result get an unhappy, crowded plant.  There is another reason to avoid this – this extra weight makes it more difficult to move into a sheltered position in bad weather should you need to do so.

For too long, gardeners have been covering the bottom of containers with gravel, pieces of broken pottery, Styrofoam packing material and the like. Do not do this… only the potting mix should be put into a plant container.  If you are concerned that the soil will wash out of the container through the drainage holes, (which is unlikely to happen), you can place a piece of paper towel, newspaper, or even a coffee pot filter over the holes before adding the potting mix.  Always check the bottom of the pots before planting to ensure there are adequate drainage holes, and consider setting the containers on bricks or “pot feet” to promote free drainage.

How to Get a “Fluffy Ribbon” in a Flower Show: an Amateur’s Viewpoint

  1. Enter several somethings. You must enter to win. Many clubs open up entry to both club members and the public. When you get to the check-in at the show, there will be someone checking your entry for accuracy and initialing your entry card before it can be placed for display and judging. leaf of life small
  2. Follow the guidelines for entry as precisely as you can. If possible, get a copy of the show schedule ahead of time. Study it. If the show schedule has a visual example of how to fill out the entry card, follow this. If not, ask for help from an experienced garden club member, maybe one not super competitive, so you can be sure you are getting good advice. Can gardeners be competitive? You betcha, but they can also be some of the most generous and easy to be around people out there. Include the scientific name on the entry card. For the public part of the show for education, and also for judges, including a common name in addition to the scientific name is recommended. Be prepared to fill out the entry card ahead of time by bringing notes about your entry with details you need for the entry card if you do not have entry cards at home. Take detailed notes on what the plant is and what category it is (division/section/etc). Many save time filling out entry cards by using small address labels to avoid having to hand write out name and address in two places on the entry card. Best to use a number 2 pencil on your entry card in case any last minute changes are necessary.
  3. Time it right. Show up with your entry at the right time, which is usually really early in the morning for cut specimens and depends on how the show is set up. If you live in a city with lots of traffic, give yourself extra time so  you will not be too late to enter and this will also avoid hazardous driving with hard stops that can turn your perfect plant specimen into just a big mess in your vehicle. Often, some horticulture entries and designs can be entered the day before the show is judged. If the plant is known and grown mostly for flowers, best to enter it with nice flower(s). If it is grown for berries, best to enter it with berries on it. Make sure you have owned the plant for the correct time-frame. Our rule for shows is you must own and take care of the plant at least 3 months immediately prior to the show, with a few exceptions for some things grown by seed. Planning to enter a flower show gets you out into the garden more frequently and with a more critical eye and actions towards plant health, which is good for your plants. Picking a few plants you might enter to pay special attention to is recommended.
  4. Enter something unusual, not seen in previous flower shows for your area is a plus. However,  if you have a “wow” plant, like a blooming orchid or a green rose or odd cactus, do consider entering that time and time again. It will be new for someone seeing the show and bring delight and be educational, which is, after all, the reason we have flower shows.
  5. Groom entry. Just as a chef would clean up any splatters of sauce from the plate and remove any wilted or past prime lettuce from salad before presenting it for judging, you too, should remove imperfect plant parts from you specimen entry. Remove any insects or signs of insects. Consider allowed soil grooming such as putting small rocks on top of soil in a potted specimen. Check your schedule to see if wedging is allowed in the vase, such as plastic wrap, and use it to your advantage to have the specimen angled to show its best features, just like angling your face just so for selfies. Trim brown parts off leaves so that the leaf is still shaped in a natural manner. For example, if you have a flower on a vine with a bunch of leaves and some of the leaves have bug holes or fungal spots, trim off those leaves as long as you leave some. If a length for a specimen is specified in the schedule, measure your entry. Assure all foliage is above the water line in display vase. Clean dirt off leaves and pots. Remove water stains and mineral deposits from pots if possible or consider double potting. A soft paint brush can work well to gently clean plant leaves. Take trimmers and that soft paint brush with you and your entries for any last minute specimen grooming needed.
  6. Cut plant specimens ahead of time. Put them in water as soon as possible, even taking a vase of water with you to the garden to immediately give the stem a drink. The specimen needs to be able to stay good looking for at least 48 hours. Test out your plant for this possibility weeks before the show to make sure it will hold up to judging when cut. Consider cutting the stem again, under water, once you get inside and again the day of entry. Store cut specimens at room temperature. Refrigeration is not such a good thing in this case.
  7. Use right size vase/vessel. A small flower goes in a small vase. A small cactus goes in a small pot. Some shows provide containers, others have you bring your own. Find out ahead of time which it is. Generally, clear, unadorned glass is used. The kind you can get by re-purposing a clear glass food container. For potted plants, the plant should be the primary focus, not the pot. Double-potting: Some nestle potted plants inside a pot just large enough so the rim of the potted plant is just below the rim of the outside pot. Refrain from adding additional flair to your potted specimens, such as a tiny gnome. Gnomes are cute for the garden, but do not belong in flower shows in the horticulture section.
  8. Transport plants safely. A six-pack bottle carrier can come in handy to keep cut specimens in vases upright.
  9. Have fun! This is the most important tip. As with so many things in life, the true joy is from the journey, rather than the destination.

Road Trip: A Texas Public Garden in Goldthwaite

Texas has many wonderful public gardens and most big cities have definite bragging rights about their public gardens, like Zilker Botanical Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, the Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Dallas, the Leach Garden on Texas A&M Campus in College Station, the San Antonio Botanical Garden, and the list goes on. You are invited to name your favorite Texas public garden in the comments of our blog. Rarely does a smaller Texas town of around 2000 population have garden bragging rights, but Goldthwaithe does, with its Texas Botanical Garden and Native American Interpretive Center. If you are in the area for some other reason and like to tour gardens, a stop at Goldthwaithe’s garden is recommended for its emphasis on native plants, its water features, and exceptional educational signs and structures about how the early Native American people living in the area many years ago used plants.

My visit to Goldthwaithe’s Botanical Garden was in the heat of July and was a quick side trip after visiting a vineyard in nearby San Saba.  Sunflowers towering along one of the trails made for a happy visit for myself and bees. Meandering trails make the garden feel much larger than it is, a testament to a good design. Many of the plants are marked with both their common and scientific name. Near the selfie-worthy buffalo sculpture, an active fish population in a water feature quickly gobbled up any flying insect approaching close enough to be a quick meal. Many birds and insects are part of the garden and I was serenaded by a Mockingbird’s song while wandering through the garden. Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, was all aflutter with Queen butterflies, Danaus gillipus. Dragonflies and damsel flies flew about or rested quietly on on a sprig of Little Bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium or Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis.

A variety of native plants and permanent design elements, including changes in elevation and curving paths, make this garden an inviting oasis for locals and visitors alike. After touring the garden, the air conditioning and friendly staff in the adjacent visitor center was a welcome respite from the heat of mid-day. The garden is a great place to do some “nature bathing” and I’ll come again next trip to the area. My compliments to all who contributed and continue to contribute to this garden’s success and appeal.

Red, White and Blue in the Garden

The A&M Garden Club will be celebrating the 4th of July this year at Heritage Park in Bryan with a booth where we will give away plants, garden related crafts (butterfly hand fans to help with the heat) and talk gardening. The highlight for many is the children’s parade scheduled for 10:30 AM. The event is from 9:30-noon, so everyone will still have time for other celebratory activities with family and friends. While thinking about what red, white and blue outfit to wear at Heritage Park, red, white and blue flowers came to mind. A stroll around outside and at the community garden found an abundance of red, white, and blue in the garden. Looking for red, white and blue flowers or foliage is a fun holiday scavenger hunt as a solo activity while enjoying a morning cup of tea or coffee in the garden or with family or friends. Before starting, decide if you will count things like pink and purple. Different point values can be assigned to colors for a nice competition that requires just a little math to add up everything at the end to see who wins. Bonus points could be added for things like native plants or edible plants or medicinal plants or knowing the scientific name or common name. My rules are each type of plant can only be counted once for each color. So a zinnia that is red can be counted and a zinnia that is pink or orange can also be counted.

My Point Value Assignment if you want to compete with me:

Red= 2 points

White = 1 point

Blue = 3 points (blue mist flower gets 3 points because even though it is purple to me, it has blue in the common name)

Pink = 0.5 points

Purple = 0.5 points

Orange = 0.5 points

Point total home garden = 31

Community garden point total= 39

What did you score?

turks cap red
Red of Turks Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii
beauty berry white
White or American Beauty Berry, Callicarpa americana
borage blue
Blue of Borage, Borage officinalis

A&M Garden Club in the Community: Richard Carter Park in June 2019

Richard Carter Park in College Station is one of the public gardens, you could say community gardens, the A&M Garden Club contributes to by helping coordinate and participate in work days to upkeep the plant beds and increase wildflowers in the grassy areas. The club has also donated at least one tree for the park, a pecan, and plans to continue to do so for future arbor day events.

The plants doing well there are indeed hardy.  There are a variety of different crepe myrtles and there is a line of them with signs indicating the particular variety. As with all gardens, visiting at different times yields different rewards. On a hot humid day in June there were many things in bloom. If you live in the area, a visit is worth it.

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