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Who's number one? It's the marigold.

Petunias, move over. Marigolds have edged ahead as the favorite flower in Western gardens. Over the past few years, nurseries ahve reported surging sales in these briht bloomers. What accounts for their triumph?

Few flowers provide as much long-lasting garden color with as little care as marigolds. Modern varieties trace their heritage to plants native to Mexico. These evolved in a climate of low humidity combined with occasional rainfall, conditions easily matched in most Western gardens. In contrast, Eastern gardeners must codle their marigolds through hot, humid summers. (Humidity is not a problem for marigolds in cool-summer areas.)

There's a marigold to suit almost any taste. Flowers range from the smallest signet to the largest American varieties (see drawing below). Colors include sunny tones of yellow to gold, maroon, red, and various combinations of these.

Recent hybridizing has produced some notable newcomers, including more of the exceptionally heat-toletant "triploid" type, as well as compact forms of large-flowered Americans.

This month you can buy bedding plants at nurseries or sow seeds; seeds sprout quickly if you keep the soil moist. Marigolds do best in a sunny spot, but in desert areas they appreciate some afternoon shade. Feed lightly during the bloom season and keep evenly moist. Plants will bloom from spring into fall, with only a brief slowdown during the hottest months in desert gardens. Which marigold?

Marigolds with single blooms, such as the dainty signets (Tagetes tenuifolia) pictured at top right, have gained popularity in the last few years. Seeds are generally available, and some nurseries now carry plants as well. Signets do best where summers are cool.

Gardeners also are rediscovering the old-fashioned charm of French single marigolds (T. patula varieties). Among these are 'Naughty Marietta', shown below right, and 'Dainty Marietta', both with golden yellow and red blooms, and the new 10-inch dwarf 'Mini Marietta'. Other French singles are red-petaled 'Cinnabar' and golden 'Tina'.

In French double marigolds (also T. patula), look for three new series--Boy, happy Days, and bonanza. All are especially free-flowering, with larger, 1 1/2- to 2-inch blooms and slightly taller, 8- to 9-inch plants than the traditional Petite series. They come in the full range of marigold colors.

You'll also find a wider selection of top-performing "triploid" marigolds. Crosses of T. erecta and T. patula, these flower profusely and tolerate heat better than most others. Blooms are especially long-lasting, and plants are lush and broad.

The 'Nugget' triploid series has fully double 2-1/2-inch blooms on compact plants 10 inches tall. You can get single triploids as well, such as 'Suzie Wong' (yellow) and 'Nell Gwyn' (gold).

Noteworthy American (also called African) marigolds are varieties that boast large blooms on more compact plants. You may like the two recently introduced series: Crush adn Inca (see 'Inca Yellow' at far right). All tolerate heat fairly well.

If you can't find a particular variety, write for the catalog of a mail-order nursery taht sells a wide selection of marigold seeds. Three top sources we've found are Stokes Seeds, Box 548, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240; W. Atlee Burpee Co., 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18991; and Geo. W. Park Seed Co., Box 31, Greenwood, S.C. 29647.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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