For the love of stripes

Last year, I had a surprise with some Calendula officinalis seeds: I got a few plants which were attractively, and rather bizarrely, striped. So I saved the seed from those specific marigolds (and some from the others too, of course – who can walk past a marigold seedhead without saving at least a few?) and planted them in the spring, keeping my fingers crossed. Hybridisation, I thought, meant that my chances of getting some striped marigolds were low. I was wrong.

But what I did get was a huge variety of stripe intensity, as it were.

There’s just a hint here, on the underside. Looks as though someone’s been dipping the ends of the petals in paint and it’s dripped down a bit.

Then there’s the orange on orange variant, still with the darker tip:

which is almost terracotta on this flower. And then the ones like this open out a little more and you don’t notice the terracotta so much; you just see the stripes:

Some are rather more pale and interesting,

subtle in orange and cream (sounds like some sort of pudding), with a delicate fine stripe down the sides of the petals.

Some have ends which can only be described as splodgy,

but these aren’t, I suppose, strictly speaking, striped. Their paint has really run.

And then there are the rather more emphatic versions:

Still essentially orange and cream, but with a lot more orange. For some reason this makes me think of tangerine jelly and single cream at children’s parties, but that could just be because I need my tea. (I never liked that sort of alleged treat, anyway, and I do like these.)

I love the surprise of it. I walk towards the bed where I put them all, and I’ve no idea what I’m going to find. Will there be ones which are a solid colour? What will have happened to the ones which looked insignificant in bud, but which may have opened since I last checked them out?

And the insects seem to like them too. I think the flies are using the stripes like runways, guiding them to the centre of the flowers.

I like the variation in stripe thickness on this one, with the cream so much broader at the base of the petals. Or should that be ‘with the orange so much thinner’? Which is more important, the cream or the orange, I wonder? They’re both wonderful… guess I’ll be saving seeds from more choices this year. I only had a couple of seedheads to play with last year, after we’d had our horrible wet August, but this time there’ll be many, many more. And they’ve even been happily free of mildew this year, which is astonishing.

My passion for stripes doesn’t stop at Calendulas, though. I’d better not get onto the hardy geraniums just yet (I’ll save them up; they’ve been good this year), but I can’t resist a quick look

at this little petal. I do love them, but there’s something almost medical about the veining on these. The Calendulas look so deliberately painted, which I really enjoy. So do some other things,

but I’d better not start on spots. I think it must be a good year for Toad Lilies, too.


23 thoughts on “For the love of stripes

    1. kate Post author

      I’ve marked that one with so many pieces of string that it looks like a washing line! All of them came from one which looked just like that, so you can never tell, but I’m hoping for more….

  1. paulinemulligan

    Subtle in orange and cream is my favourite, but then they are all lovely, you have a fantastic selection, wonder what will turn up next year!

    1. kate Post author

      I’m juts hoping the seed will be viable – I expect so, they’re calendulas after all – because it’s turned a lot cooler and damper, and I’ve noticed some squishiness. That reminds me, must go and check the Verbascums too…

  2. Dobby

    Oh, how exciting and what fun not to know what you are going to find each day. The Calendula are stunning. I have no doubt that the Geraniums will make another post!

    1. kate Post author

      It is interesting just seeing what happens – some have been plain, but then I expected them all to be so anything stripy is a definite bonus.

  3. wellywoman

    Gorgeous calendula and that last one is quite stunning. Seen toad lilies 3 times now in less than a week and I love them. Will have to see if I can get a plant for the garden, such a striking flower.

    1. kate Post author

      I think you must go for the toad lilies – three encounters is more of a summons than a coincidence, they’re calling you! I got mine last year, when it was good, but this year it’s just fab (I grow it in a pot rather than the ground; it doesn’t seem to object though it’s going to need a bigger pot)…

    1. kate Post author

      They were – a packed of that old favourite ‘Art Shades Mixed’. I’ve never had the stripes before either… a random sport? I seem to remember it wasn’t a very good mix – well, apart from the stripy ones. May have been Thompson and Morgan, may have been Suttons – but yup, just an ordinary packet. I may even have bought it in Wilkinsons.

      The original grows in a pot on the road side of my house, and I often hear comments on it filtering up though the nearby ventilation grille in the kitchen. I’m keeping an eye on its seedheads too, just in case passers-by are as keen on – er, gardening, as I am.

        1. kate Post author

          Fingers crossed for you!

          I’ve never tried autumn sowing – must give it a go. Right, off to check the seed heads…

  4. croftgarden

    I wouldn’t worry about wet summers or damp autumns too much, Calendulas thrive here and seed promiscuously and prolifically. I don’t bother to collect the seed. Each year I just move a few seedlings to a new position or a pot, leave the rest and spend the whole summer removing the invaders. They are remarkably variable and produce a few gems and some which even their nearest and dearest would fail to love.
    They are very popular here where they are known as Scots Marigolds, but I’ve not convinced anyone that the petals are great in salads!

    1. kate Post author

      I’m amazed by how free of mildew they have been this year, especially given the bizarre weather (and we’ve been wet, boy, have we been wet). I do try and control their spread a bit, but I always miss some and they materialise where I don’t want them – in the potatoes, for instance. I was a bit too thorough this year and pulled out some by the bean poles – and yup, blackfly on the beans. Don’t know what I was thinking…

      Scots Marigolds?! Personally I think of them as Welsh Marigolds, ho ho. Or Bryn Bach marigolds, to be even more specific!

      (Seriously, I haven’t actually noticed that many around here. My fondness may go back to Sutherland, where we had loads in front of the croft – colourful and easy for us kids to grow. I remember our neighbour collecting some and saying her mother used to use them to colour butter.)

  5. hillwards

    The last one is definitely the show stopper. Love those stripes. The C. Indian Prince I sowed last year already showed a bit of variation in their flowers, this year there’s a little more variation, what with self-seeding and randomly collected seed from those ones. But I haven’t seen stripes. I don’t think. … must take a closer look. I do love Calendula though. So pretty.

    1. kate Post author

      Aren’t they cheerful, striped or not? I’ve been scanning the seed catalogues and no-one is marketing stripes as such, but there are some interesting variants. There’s one called ‘Sherbet Fizz’ (YUK) which has colour-tipped petals, but I’m going to stick with the painted stripes. If I can!

  6. Cathy

    What a fascinating series of photos, Kate – and your enthusiasm has motivated me to make sure I plant a packet of them next year too, something I have not done for ages. I look forward to seeing your geraniums too, one of my own stalwarts.

    1. kate Post author

      Go for it! (waves fist in air, Calendula Freedom Front salute).

      Must go and see if I’ve any seed left after the winds last night. Fingers crossed…

  7. Karen - An Artist's Garden

    After seeing your toad lilies “in the flesh” as it were, I was sorely tempted to buy on last week, I must have picked it up and put it down 3 or 4 times, but I resisted (sigh) only because I am not sure where to put them just yet. Lovely post Kate

  8. Crystal

    Love those striped calendulas. You were lucky that the strain continued in your saved seed. They say that hybrids don’t come true from saved seed. Or maybe that’s just the seed companies ensuring they get our custom.

  9. Juliet

    Ooh, I like those Calendulas – very pretty. My (ordinary unstripey ones) have been really poor this year – either they didn’t like the weather or they didn’t like being planted in a tub with the remains of some daffodils. I’ll try them elsewhere next year.

    1. kate Post author

      Thanks – I don’t think it’s been the best year for calendulas, generally, so I’m sure it’s not you. Mine are usually amazing, and this year they’re just good. I do grow some in tubs and they haven’t been at all thrilling, though…


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