African marigolds are so dependably colourful and so easy to grow that we tend to take them for granted - and the varieties have changed relatively little over the years. But now, from India, comes a new style of rain-resistant marigold. After all, the one disappointing thing about African marigolds is that as summer fades to autumn their big double flowers can rot in the rain.
Marigolds have long been worn by Hindu brides, and used by the million in garlands and to decorate the venues at Hindu weddings. As explained at BigIndianWedding.com: “Lord Vishnu and his wife Goddess Lakshmi, the ideal couple, are worshipped with marigolds. Hence, using the same at weddings is symbolic of the divine blessings to the newlywed couple for a prosperous life ahead. Marigolds are also considered to be representative of the sun. Thus, they symbolize brightness and positive energy to be bestowed on the couple.”
But it turns out that these marigolds are different from those we in Britain have been growing for so long. They have more petals and a harder centre to the double flowers. Tom Sharples, long time flower supremo at Suttons Seeds, summed it up: “We noticed that the harder centre to the flower meant that rain and dew ran off rather than soaked into the flower, meaning that their late summer flowering performance was much better.”
Suttons originally found these ‘Kushi’ marigolds in India but the plants were too variable to make a good garden display, so they spent a few years improving them and now they come in a tall, self supporting mixture reaching about 90cm (3ft) in height, ideal for the middle of the border and of course for cutting. They come in a mix of traditional marigold colours – orange, gold and yellow – each flower head packed tight with heavily-textured petals.
And think about it: they’re often cut for garlands and bridal decorations with very little stem so those heavy petals help prevent them from quickly collapsing and ensure they look good for as long as possible.
You can order young plants of ‘Kushi Mix’ marigolds from Dobies and from Suttons. Place your orders soon, before orders close for the season.
*Please note, the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author which are not necessarily those of the RHS