Les Harrison is the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Director
Summer landscape projects can strain human endurance and personal financial stability. There are many competing options during this growing season, but keeping the home landscape colorful, bright, and manageable is a critical component to domestic tranquility.
It is true there are a large number of showy, exotic options to add color and greenery to the old home place. Curb appeal makes bragging rights possible.
Unfortunately, many of the shrubs and annuals have very specific and difficult to achieve requirements for success during the season’s heat. Every variable has to be just right for success, much like baby-bear’s porridge.
This requires enough water, but not too much. The soil has to be the right texture and have the correct water holding capacity, and it must have the just the right amount of nutrients.
The other two requirements are time and money, and there is never enough of either. So much for all the other summer activities which could have occurred if the landscape did not take up so much of both resources.
Fortunately for Wakulla County residents, there is a low-tech, low cost and old school solution to the challenge. Marigolds, the petite annual, are heavy bloomers which will provide a colorful show most of the summer.
The blooms differ in tone from golden, orange, yellow, and white with a few having maroon highlights. Combined with the green foliage, the blooms make a striking and spectacular contrast in any landscape.
The marigolds most frequently seen in this area are from the Tagetes genus. The height of this genus can vary from a few inches to two feet.
The common name in English, “marigold,” is derived from “Mary’s Gold,” a name first applied to the Calendula genous, a similar plant native to Europe. All marigolds are in the same plant family with asters, daisies and sunflowers.
As a general rule, the Tagetes family of marigolds grows well in virtually any Wakulla County soil type. Most preform best in soils which are well-drained and do not retain excessive moisture from summer showers.
The identifier Tagetes is from the name of the historical Etruscan theologian Tages. He was a founding prophet of Etruscan religion over 2000 years ago.
In his day, Tages revealed to his followers a cosmic view of divinity with his methods of correctly determining divine-will when it concerned events of public interest. Certainly, a flower named after this gentlemen must have some heavenly features.
Potentially occult qualities aside, one of the most popular features of marigolds is their inexpensive price tag. Enough seeds to sow a flowerbed will fracture a five dollar bill, but usually returns change.
For those who are challenged by horticultural projects involving seeds, many nurseries and garden centers carry marigold transplants. The open pollinator varieties require a minimum of care and only a little water.
There is usually time and money left over for all the fun activities summer offers once the marigolds are delivering colorful blooms to the home landscape.
To learn more about using marigolds and other summer annuals in Wakulla County, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or at http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu/