Filed under: gardening | Tags: marigold, mesembryanthemum, useful flowers
We’ve discovered that these dark and bitter evenings are good times for detailing next year’s garden plan. What to grow and where to grow it are two subjects that require renewed attention from year to year. It’s productive and pleasant to spend a chilling night pouring over colorful books by firelight and jotting down occasional notes. Each season, as we learn more, observe more, and take on more responsibility and creativity, the crop is bigger and the garden’s physical boundary expands, but there’s always much to improve upon and new species to incorporate.
One thing we’ve learned is that veggie growing is compatible with flower growing. We need certain flowers, herbs, and veggies to attract a diverse range of pollinating and predatory insects, and to repel pests by means of scents and/or chemical composition.
I’m fascinated by the way we can take tiny seeds the size of pinheads and create an abundance of life, green foliage, wild colors, food, and habitation for other creatures. And at the end of the season, flowers give us free seeds to grow again next year.
Here is the first installment of a series of posts that focus on the flowers Daley and I’ve had success with and that we’ll happily sow again. The posts won’t be continuous or in back-to-back episodes; instead the series’ll be a kind of on-going conversation, to be updated as the seasons go by and more flowers are grown and discovered. I’ll tag all of these related posts with the words ” useful flowers.”
Useful Flower 1: The Marigold
This flower has a long growing season, as it will start blooming in June and outlast many other flowers, well into autumn. It can be grown in partial or full sun. The earthy and cheerful Marigold is widely known for its nutritional and medicinal properties, but it also provides a few very important and interesting services for surrounding plants. The scent of the green foliage deters insects and the roots of the Marigold plant release a chemical that repels nematodes in the soil. They also attract hoverflies, whose larvae prey on aphids, thrips, and other plant-harming species. Marigold flowers are excellent planted in the same bed as any consumable for this reason. I had a row of marigolds next to the climbing beans and another patch with the peas. Next year I will be sure to have many more of these growing.
Useful Flower 2: The Mesembryanthemum…mummumum
This is a wildly multi-colored plant that’s extremely vigorous and starts life as a very hardy, springy seedling. It is not likely to suffer from transplanting. It very much prefers full sun, and in fact, it closes its neon-colored heads during rainy weather and at night! It is pollinated by and attracts a variety of beneficial insects. There is always a buzz of activity around the mesembryanthemums. I’d recommend growing this flower to a new gardener for its fast-growing and tough nature, loud colors, and peculiar contraction of the heads.
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