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Calendula (Calendula Officinalis)

Calendula, also called pot marigold, has a long and venerable history as a medicinal and ornamental plant. It grows profusely in gardens with its bright yellow blooms appearing from June until the first frost. The word calendula comes from the Latin calends, the first day of the Roman month; the name marigold refers to the Virgin Mary. Because of the Plant's abundant growth, it was seen as a sign of inexhaustible life and, with its vivid color, as a source of cheer. It has exceptional powers to heal wounds because of its cleansing, astringent and antifungal effects. Calendula is also used topically for burns, sprains and eczema. In a tea blend, the flowers stimulate bile flow and help to treat gastritis and ulcers.

Gardening Tips

  • Flourishes in warm, sunny locations and even shade.
  • Grows well in any soil, eve heavy clay. Adds garden color.
  • Varieties range from 6 in.-2 ft. tall and are very hardy.
  • The flowers are gathered from June to October and even into November in very mild years.

Calendula, which never seems to wither, has been known as the "nonfading flower." It has been said that a calendula planted in the footsteps of a beloved would ensure unfading love.

The Calendula, an annual plant, bas multiple, fleshy stalks with hairy, grass-green leaves that are spatula-shaped at the bottom and taper upward. The flowers are a glowing orange-yellow with a green calyx.

Calendula thrive in any good garden soil. You can sow them outdoors in the springtime or plant them individually in pots. They require plenty of moisture, but do not do well in standing water or continuous rain, as they easily become mildewed. During hot, dry summers, water them in the morning.

Harvesting and processing
The orange, double-blossomed varieties are best suited for medicinal uses. For harvesting, the flowers should be in full bloom; they must be picked on dry days and then quickly dried in an airy place. However, fresh-picked flowers are preferred for producing ointment and marigold oil. The flowers of calendula can also be crushed and used as a poultice or in a compress to help heal wasp and bee stings, minor burns and varicose veins

In the kitchen
Fresh calendula petals not only make a lovely garnish for food but, with their slight peppery flavor, add a delicious touch to salads and stews. The flowers can replace the more expensive saffron to color rice, custards, cheese, butter, cakes and soups. To do this, first cook the flowers in milk to extract the pigment, and then add the colored milk to the dish. The petals can also be used for teas, alone and in blends.

A Little Lore : At one time it was thought that if you scattered the sunny calendula petals under your bed, you would have prophetic dreams as well as ward off evil spirits.

Grow the marigold to enhance your garden, your first-aid kit and your cooking

Guide to cultivation

You can obtain seeds for various marigold varieties from nurseries and seed catalogs. Seeds will remain viable for 2-3 years. They germinate best in cool weather and are usually sown outdoors in early April. You can also easily grow calendula from seeds in pots or in balcony and windows boxes. For window boxes, the lower-growing "Fiesta Gitana" variety is particularly suitable.

Cultivation Indoors

  1. If you want early blossoms, sow calendula seeds in early spring in small containers or dishes. Keep the soil moist and the temperature around 64 deg F.
  2. About after a week, germination should be complete. For the fastest growth, place the seedlings in a bright, cool place, about 53-59 deg F.
  3. When the plants have reached 1-2 in. in height, you can plant them in pots, in window boxes or in the garden. The plants will tolerate a light frost.

Cultivation outdoors

  1. For outdoor planting, do not sow until mild spring. Make rows 12 in. apart in prepared flower beds.
  2. Sprinkle seeds into the rows, about 2-5 in. apart. Cover the seeds, they germinate better without light. Germination occurs in 2-3 weeks. When the young plants are about 2 in. tall, thin them to 8 in. apart.
  3. Calendula are annuals and must be newly sown each spring. If you let some plants mature in the fall; however, they will reseed themselves. The next year, plants will appear, although they will not be as large as their predecessors.