Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Collecting Marigold Seeds

I've gone back 2 score years and 10. That's a long time, and my hands were much, much smaller then.
But I'm flashed back in an instant as my African marigolds (as I've always thought of them) or pot marigolds (as they're also, and better known) are setting seed as prolifically as a happy annual in a sunny spot can do. The seeds - little beige-brown moons - are tiny now - and I'm collecting seeds, as I love to do. But I can't help myself; just as when I was 4 - and not since - I have to fling some around like my favourite game then, to watch them germinate, grow, flower and produce more of these seeds, ever more. Our magical garden didn't just have good dirt for mud pies (and flowers and berries for decorating them), and fruit trees galore, and hens to caress, but my own little garden as well. I'll be honest, it belonged to my next 2 sisters up as well, and I had a third of this plot, but Monopoly-like I took over the lot pretty soon. Just like my current culinary patch, it was near the hens, so I'd be playing near happy clucks and birds at times jostling to see if bird-lady (girl then) had treats. Gardening with such companions somehow is more joyous. Add the daring yellow robins and my happiness is complete.
It was decided that for inclusion into the culinary patch, plants had to be, well, edible. Carrots, peas...and hello edible flowers. But I had a very pretty pink and purple veg patch and I snuck in, first Stevia (a little subshrub which produces a sugar substitute, extracted from the leaves of the plant (Stevia rebaudiana), that I find makes me nauseous), then (oh the shame) pink Nicotiana (a so-pretty flower that is...used by humans - well, its cousin is). My guilty secret...with leaves that I don't intend to try smoking.
Back to the kitchen matters...I picked the last of the peaches this morning, off a dwarf tree that somehow the committee decided would be placed in the middle of my rose garden, near the kitchen/dining room. Now I think that my pentstemons and roses have kept birds off the tree, but others (yes, one other) disagree. Some fruit were, of course, past their best or damaged but, hey, this is the beauty of hens - there is no waste (and I love being the adored food-lady). This is our first good year for peaches - do we thank all this summer rain?
Back to those edible flowers.
I'm labelling my home-collected (free) Calendula seeds - lemon, gold, orange - and they'll be fresh and grow well when I sow them in spring. Why these hot colours? Well, these edible flowers look so beautiful in a salad and...also against the black Italian kale.
And growing them again after 2 score years and 10, well that just feels extraordinary.
And marvellous.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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