Calendula – A Little History and Some Growing Instructions
The Calendula, also known as Mary-Bud, Mary-Gold, Pot Marigold and Poor Man’s Saffron, is one of the oldest of all cultivated flowers. The plant was described in the Third Century, BC and was an important part of the gardens of 5th Century France. It has been under cultivation for six centuries. The Latin name, Calendae, means the first day of the month.
The plant has been cultivated in England since the 1200’s. One of the many folk tales which enrich the history of this plant describes a beautiful, golden-haired child called Mary-Gold who spent all of her time watching the sun until one day she disappeared and was never found. In the place where she used to sit, there grew a little sun-like flower. The child’s friends proclaimed that the little flower was really Mary-Gold and that she had been turned into a flower.
Calendulas came to the New World with the first European settlers. It was used as a coloring agent in foods and also in soups and stews. Joseph Breck in his 1851 book, The Book of Flowers, “A hardy annual, common to the gardens time out of mind, and formerly much used in soups and broths…” The petals of the flowers were used in puddings, dumplings and even wine.
By the 1800’s doctors had realized that the plant, used as a poultice, could stop bleeding. By the time of the Civil War most doctors carried dried calendula petals in their medical bags to stop bleeding and to promote the healing of wounds.
Calendulas are easy to grow from seed. Direct seed only, because they do not transplant well. Plant in the spring when the danger of frost has passed in an area that receives full sun. Cover the seed with 1/2 inch of soil. The seeds will germinate in less than 2 weeks. Thin the plants so that mature plants are separated by at least 8 inches. Calendulas will begin blooming in July and will continue to bloom until the first frost.