Monday 8 September 2014

A little ray of sunshine

One of the star performers in our potager this year has been Tagetes patula nana "Bolero". We use Tagetes as a companion plant to our tomatoes and peppers, to attract beneficial insects such as bees and hoverflies. Some ideas about companion planting are flannel; others have a scientific basis, as summarised by Wikipedia here.

Companion planting of tagetes with tomatoes, 12/07/2014. Flowering well even when small.

We don't go quite as far as the couple in Descartes with the immaculate, unfenced potager, who accompany each of a row of twenty tomato plant with its own Tagetes. We have two plants per bed of fourteen plants and three with the peppers and tomatillos. Lettuces did not perform well as companions to tomatoes: they bolted.

Tagetes in pepper/tomatillo bed, 01/08/2014

Chili peppers  in Tagetes "Bolero" bed, 20/08/2014
In France, all forms of tagetes patula are known as Oeillet d'Inde. In Britain, you will find this species called variously Tagetes and French Marigold in increasing order of size. African Marigold (tagetes erecta) is Rose d'Inde. They originate not in Africa, France or India, but in South America. The petals are edible, particularly by chickens if you want nice yellow yolks. They are also used in perfumery, and as a yellow dye.

I find the larger varieties too municipal for my taste. We have grown Lidl's Tagetes "Bolero" (confusion! labelled Rose d'Inde) for many years; the seed keeps well and germinates freely, it's really easy to grow and a packet of seeds costs next to nothing (29 cents or 29p a packet in 2013).

Tagetes "Bolero" with Nectar tomatoes, 16/10/2011 - not such a big plant

But the plants grown from this year's fresh supply of seed have gone bonkers. I don't think they're any taller than usual, but as may be seen by comparison with the 2011 picture above, they have spread much further and they are covered in flowers 3-4cm across. It may simply be that the weather has suited them. They show no signs of stopping, so heavens knows how big they will be by October.

The flowers open a rich mahogany red with a gold border to the petals.

Gradually the mahogany fades to orange as the flower matures, over the space of about ten days.

Ultimately the whole flower is a rich orange.

 There are lots of different flower forms.

semi-double (my favourite).
And they look good in containers too, by the way. The pairing with the dark blue lobelia was stunning, but the lobelia is now going over. Bolero marches on.

Window box with Selfie, 13/07/2013. My little Fuji camera died not long after this was taken.

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