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Marigolds and French tarragon


by Jekka McVicar

With 23 days to go until we build our display at the Chelsea Flower Show, the first buds of pot marigolds, Calendula officinalis, are showing. Their timing couldn't have been more perfect.


Marigold flower in budWith 23 days to go until we build our display at the Chelsea Flower Show, the first buds of pot marigolds, Calendula officinalis, are showing. Their timing couldn't have been more perfect.

The marigolds will be in full flower in time for the show. The plants are for our own display, the theme of which is the myth and magic of herbs. Calendula is steeped in both. It was first used in Indian and Arabic cultures, before being discovered by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. In medieval England, marigolds were considered an emblem of love and were a chief ingredient in a complicated spell that promised young maidens knowledge of whom they would marry.

French tarragon plantsI wish other plants were as prepared for Chelsea as the marigolds. This year we've had problems with light levels, as the warm intense sun has appeared in-between both rain and snow showers. While the plants are growing rapidly in the greenhouse, they're also growing soft; we're having to move them outside to keep their growth turgid. However, the downpours and hail storms damage the plants and split them apart, so we have to tie up the soft growth on each plant before placing it outside. French tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus, is a case in point.

I love stories associated with tarragon. Dracunculus means 'little dragon', which could refer to the shape of French tarragon's roots, or to its fiery flavour. It was certainly believed to heal bites from snakes, serpents and other venomous creatures.

Plants for each of the flower shows are marked out with coloured labels: red denotes plants destined for Chelsea, blue for Hampton Court and yellow for Art in Action. This way we can monitor how the plants are doing, and which ones need pushing or holding back for the dates of each show.



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Gardeners' World Web User 18/09/2008 at 17:33

i have put marigolds all around my rotations on my allotment and around my carrots it looks very good so now i am collecting all the seeds for next year so i can do it again but you must dead head them to keep them looking good

Gardeners' World Web User 18/08/2009 at 12:47

I've seen tarragon on sale in little pouches called 'pocket gardens' at http://www.ukgardendesigns.com/tarragon-pocket-garden-p-648.html Is tarragon just used for bites, or is it used used in cooking and other things as well?

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:31

Did anyone see the Gardeners World feature on the lilacs collection in Suffolk? Do you remember the 2 favorite varieties mentioned at the end???