FRENCH MARIGOLD (Tagete patula) is a classic heirloom usually grown as a border around vegetables because of its size -- approximately 18" -- of nicely rounded and beautiful foliage -- and reputation for repelling insects. The strong fragrance and brilliant sunny colors of fully double flowers are extremely welcome and decorative. Also attract pollinators! Annual, but heartily self seeds - I have not been without dozens of volunteers each Spring since my initial planting over 10 years ago. 25 seeds.
HISTORY, FOLKLORE & CULINARY: The Marigold was the "flower of the dead" in pre-Hispanic Mexico and is still used in such commemorations today. And for those who believe in faeries, old British folklore says a wash of marigold water over the eyes improves the ability to see these creatures! That's interesting because petals of marigold are rich in luteins (which modern science now knows are important for eye health). The petals also make exceptional food coloring. Scattering a few petals on a salad provides exquisite color.
DYERS: Produces a yellow-gold color depending on mordant; alum makes it lighter while iron gives more intense darker shades.
GROWING TIPS: Easy to grow. Direct seed by broadcast method after danger of frost in Spring. Can also be started indoors 3 to 4 weeks before last frost in lower zones.
SEED SAVING TIPS: Weather is an important factor in successfully saving marigold seeds, because the heads often don't mature until late in the season -- a time when many of us experience successive rain storms. So do not harvest heads early and not until they are absolutely crispy dry! A tricky business and some years a tall order. Then, bring in and dry on paper before crushing to extract the seeds. Use only those with dark black full seed heads.