Exciting new calendulas

October 13th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Calendula 'Orange Flash', new and exclusive to Mr F

There’s a good reason that the gardening magazines give away free packets of calendula seed in spring. Calendulas are colourful, they’re easy to grow and the seed is inexpensive. Well, the seed of the varieties in the giveaways is cheap – otherwise they couldn’t afford to give it away – and unfortunately that fosters the idea that calendulas are cheerful but cheap and really not very special. Wrong.

In the last year or two I’ve grown, or assessed, all the latest calendula varieties are I have to say that some of them are simply gorgeous.

New colours and colour combinations mark them out from the old style different-shade-of-orange types. Last year’s tall, pale and creamy, almost white, ‘Snow Princess’ is lovely and is well worth sowing now. ‘Oopsy Daisy’ with orange tipped yellow petals is sparky, bushy little plant for edges and containers. And this year sees two more mew calendulas, in very pretty new shades.

We’ve seen varieties with dark backs to the petals before but nothing as delightful as ‘Orange Flash’. Each petal is pale apricot on the top and tipped and lined with chestnut on the back, just take a look at the detail in the picture (above).

‘Orange Flash’ reaches only about 30cm so the stems are not long enough for cutting, except in dainty posies. ‘Sunset Buff’ is a similar colouring, though brighter and more vivid, and with red backs to the petals rather than chestnut. And the plants reach 60cm so are ideal for cutting.

As with ‘Snow Princess’, both ‘Orange Flash’and ‘Sunset Buff’ can be sown outside now but be sure to protect the seedlings from slugs. I prefer to sow them in large cells in a cold and well-ventilated greenhouse where that little extra shelter creates better, bushier plants. Move them out into the garden in March when you would normally be sowing seed outside. They’ll flower weeks ahead of spring sown plants.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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