‘Mary’s Gold’ in the garden


Birth Month Flowers are traditionally linked to those born at that time of year. They all have meanings, often with characteristics that are said to be ‘inherited’ by those born during that month.

For those born in October we have a choice of two different blooms – both stunning flowers, and both easily grown.

Marigolds, with their rich warm orange or deep yellow petals, are often given as a sign of warm, undying love or devotion. For Hindus, the month of October is associated with festivals such as Dusshera and Diwali, and the marigold has great significance for these as well as other religions.

The marigolds we are talking of here are the Calendula, sometimes known as the English Marigold or Pot Marigold, as distinct from the bedding French or African marigolds, or Tagetes.

Marigolds are associated with the sun. They bloom with their heads held high whatever the weather can throw at them. Neither drought nor rain will fade or faze them.

The name comes from “Mary’s gold”, for these were the flowers of the Virgin Mary and were used to decorate church altars.

The botanical name of Calendula has its roots in the Latin calandae, “the first day of the month”, because it could be relied on to bloom every month of the year in ecclesiastical and monastery gardens, constantly supplying flowers for the church.

The other common name of ‘Pot marigold’ comes from its use as a cheap substitute for saffron to colour cakes, butter and puddings. The petals are spicy and edible, and may be added to salads or used as a garnish.

Other uses included that of making a golden hair dye for those whom, as stated by the herbalist William Turner, were “not content with the natural colour which God hath given them”.

Cosmos is the other flower for those born in October. Greek for ‘beautiful’ or ‘harmony’, as named by the Spanish priests who grew the Cosmos in their gardens in Mexico.

Like the Calendula, they are of the Asteraceae, or daisy family, but as well as the oranges and yellows of the marigold, can boast blooms of pinks, reds, magenta and white. They symbolise peace, modesty, creation and joy.

Both Calendula and Cosmos are amongst the easiest flowers to grow in our gardens.

Hardy annuals, the seed of both is quite large, and very easily collected now. It may be sown immediately or saved, in envelopes or paper bags, until the spring, when it may be sprinkled onto the ground where you would like it to grow.

What can be easier?

Happy gardening.

n Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre) runs RHS Courses taught at all levels.

For more information visit www.maneaschoolofgardening.com or email msog@btinternet.com