New ways with calendulas

October 4th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Calendula 'Porcupine Yellow' (left') and 'Playtime'

Calendulas often feature here. And not just because I like them so much. There’s a quiet but continuing strand of development in calendulas that stretches from Oregon to Holland and to Norfolk and Cambridge and has given us an increasing range of flowers in some lovely, and unexpected colours.

They range from short bushy little plants for edging, and more especially containers, to taller types for borders and cutting. Perennial varieties raised from cuttings have also made a stir recently.

But perhaps the most striking feature of modern calendulas is the range of flowers forms and flower colours that is available compared with traditional types. They now come with single flowers, double flowers, anemone centred flowers, flowers with the fluted petals rolled into tubes and various combinations.

In colour they range from the traditional bright orange shades through to primrose yellow plus an increasing range of peachy tones. Dark colouring on the backs of the petals creates a whole new look and when the young petals are still rolled inwards in the centre provide a dramatic dark eye.

Two new calendulas have arrived this season. I’ve already sown mine and they’re up and thriving but even now its worth sowing.

‘Porcupine Yellow’ is like a yellow version of the old 1930s orange-flowered favourite ‘Radio’. Its mass of quilled petals are a lovely bright but soft yellow. And while ‘Porcupine Yellow’ harks back to the past, ‘Playtime’ is a carefully blended mix of the latest colours with single, semi-double and fully double flowers and includes some of the prettiest shades.

Sow now or sow in March, March sowings will germinate more promptly if sown under cloches or in a cold greenhouse – but we’ll get to that in the spring.

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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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