In the spring and summer of 2013, our health was not good enough for my wife S----- and me to spend much time paying attention to what grows well in our new home climate and sun-and-soil conditions. In 2014, however, I did pay attention.
We have basically four garden areas in our new home: one just outside the front door; another also inside the fence; the largest area outside the fence along the street to the right as you go out the front gate; and the last area, on the lower level in back of the house.
We discovered that deer love to feed on many flowers and shrubs and have easy access to the back of our house, and almost as easy access to all the rest of the big area outside the fence. We also found that roses, geraniums, petunias, and marigolds can thrive in our beds. The deer feasted on the petunias and geraniums in 2014 but left the marigolds and roses alone.
The most spectacular marigolds we had in 2014, however, were protected from any possible poaching critters by being inside the fence up close to our house. For just a few dollars we had planted a couple of marigold plants in a prominent spot out our front window. The flowers shot up, got as big as chrysanthemums, and were a dazzling gold color... for months.
Gold marigolds, June 2014
We also discovered after a very short time, however, that S----- didn't like the gold color. She now knows she doesn't want yellow or orange or gold flowers in our beds again. ...But those were the hardiest, biggest, and showiest blooms we had anywhere in 2014.
So, in planning for 2015, I decided we would choose only flowers that were white or red, and that we would plant geraniums all around the beds inside the fence, petunias in the pots stationed at various places in the hardscape in that front area, reserving the outside area for marigolds and any other red and white flower plants I could discover.
But the marigolds could not be that familiar yellow variety we see every year all over the place, or orange, or gold. I checked via internet research and - sure enough - I found that red marigolds and white marigolds do exist!
When the local stores started selling flowers for local gardens in April 2015, I eagerly searched for red and white marigolds but was not surprised to see only the familiar yellow little guys. They were cheap and they were everywhere, but they just wouldn't do. So I turned to online plant shopping.
Finding the whites and reds in botanical research and reference publications had been easy, but it took some doing to find these less common varieties for sale. Finally, I came across some red marigolds and put them "in my cart." But before "continuing to check-out," I noticed these were seeds!
Seeds for the yellow standard marigolds were available everywhere too, so I thought I just had to look in a few more sites before finding the flower plants I wanted in the white and the red varieties. But after more searching, I found myself retracing my steps to the seeds catalog. That was all I could get.
The yellow (orange, gold) marigolds one buys at Home Depot or Lowe's or elsewhere are about 4 inches tall in 4-inch wide plastic pots. Each usually has a flower or two with a bud or two ready to open up soon. The buyer can take them straight home, pop them out of their little containers, and stick them into the ground, adding a little water. Place them about 4-6 inches apart because they get only a couple of inches wider, and only 2-4 inches taller. As colorful, little plants (also cheap and plentiful), they are perfect to have just inside the edge of your flower beds running - say, for instance - along both sides of your front walk, or along the edge of the beds going out from the sides of your front steps going both ways. They do best in sun or partial sun, but they do okay too in shade.
I was thinking, having to wait several days for the seeds to arrive and then having to allow them a week to germinate and - I didn't know, but say - 5 or 6 days more to grow enough for planting, I could have my specially colored marigolds in place by late May. I had hoped for only a couple of weeks earlier, so... OK!
They sent me the minimum, 500 seeds in each packet. I planted 10 or 12 of each in little starter trays. They took several days to germinate, but almost every seed did come up.
Seedlings before first transplantation, May 17
After the seedlings were 2 inches high or thereabouts, I transferred them into larger pots, kept watering and watching. They continued to grow and did assume the shape and stem-foliage color recognizable as marigolds, spidery and delicate.
A week after first transplantation, June 4
The new plants had reached 5 inches high or so, and I was wondering about transplanting them into the flower beds outside the fence... But there was no hint of blooms. In the stores when you see marigold plants of 4 to 6 inches high, they have usually started to bloom. I knew I had special varieties, so I waited. And waited. AND WAITED.
Finally, although there was still no hint of blooms, the hand-planted marigolds had reached 8 inches in height and were 5 or 6 inches or so in circumference. They looked vigorous and healthy. I couldn't wait anymore. It was already July.
I had to decide whether or not to just strew the new marigolds along the border, spaced more or less evenly every 6 inches from one end to the other. I had already put in a few petunias here and there. I decided to put three or sometimes four of the new plants about 3 to 4 inches apart, in order to create a little massing of the new special blooms.
I quickly ran out of room along the edge of the bed and also created three or four massings 3 or 4 feet from the edge. At only 6 to 8 inches high, they might be blocked from view from the street, but there just wasn't enough space.
Funny thing. The marigold plants just kept growing and growing. Finally they were getting to be about 3 feet tall! So much for being hidden behind the little petunias. Oh, and by the way, there was still no hint of flowers.
The white marigold plant is on the left; the red, on the right. Photo from July 17.
Finally, some red blooms began to appear on the marigold... well, the marigold BUSH. Still, there was little sign of bloom on the white bushes, but the reds were not the dainty little 8-inch bed edgers I had anticipated either. They were at last flowers, though... by August.
White marigolds on the left, red (orangey red) on the right. August 6.
It was still a while before the whites started coming. They seem to need more direct sun and have never been terrific bloomers, but they did produce a bit.
The earliest white marigolds, August 13
I've still got lots of seeds. In April next year, I will plant some of the red and white marigolds directly in the 4-inch plastic pots. When they get 6 to 8 inches high, if they are robust enough, I will transplant them into that big side garden, but not along the edge. I'll plant them all about halfway back from the front edge, arranging them with the hope that they will grow together to make the bushes we ended up with this year. If I fuss with them enough, maybe I can have them all blooming by mid-June.... Oh, well, by mid-July anyway.
I've found some pretty good deer repellent (expensive, though), so I'll put some petunias and even some geraniums along the front edge. Is that a plan, or what?