Flower Profiles

Calendula

Calendulas give a splash of sunshine in the garden and as cut flowers they bring some sunshine into the house.

Calendula officinalis indicates by the second part of it’s name (officinalis) that it is also a very important herb. Nowadays, pot marigold, garden marigold, English Marigold and Scotch Marigold are most commonly known as Calendula which helps to distinguish it from the African and French marigolds, (tagetes genus) now commonly called marigolds. Calendula officinalis is grown for its beautiful flowers, edible petals and the many medicinal uses of its flowers, stems, and leaves.

The calendula is a member of the Asteraceae or daisy family. It is native to the Mediterranean through to the Macaronesia region and some areas of the Middle East.

Although sometimes classed as a warm weather plant they dislike the extreme heat of our summers so it is better in the Southeast corner of Queensland to plant them at the end of summer. To grow Calendulas prepare a well drained garden bed with lots of organic material in full sun (they will grow in partial shade but prefer the full sun). If your garden bed is not suitable they will grow well in pots and other containers. It is a very easy plant to grow, sow seeds directly into the garden beds or if you prefer into a seed tray. Extra seedlings can be planted around the garden wherever there is a space to be filled as they will attract many beneficial insects to your garden.

Mulch plants to stop weeds and conserve moisture in the soil and in very dry weather give them some water. They will grow about 40 – 45cm high and as wide and flowers can range in colour from lemon to bright orange and even a red colour and have an almost spicy aroma. As with most flowering plants the more flowers you remove the more flowers the plant will produce but leave a few flowers to go to seed, keep some seeds for next year even though they will self seed.

Aphids like the succulent calendula but can easily be treated with a soap spray. Snails, slugs and thrips can at times cause a few problems. In rainy, hot and humid weather they can also suffer with some mildew but treat with milk or sulphur spray.

Calendula flowers can be used as cut flowers to beautify your home, alternately the petals can be used in the kitchen. The simplest way is to add them to your favourite salad or add to your stir fry, cakes, puddings, stews, rice or even soup. Did you know calendula was once known as ‘poor mans saffron’ or that an extract from them is feed to hens to make their egg yolks golden. Calendula is also used to colour butter and cheese and to flavour confectionery, soft drinks and many baked products.

 

Herbal Properties

Calendula offers great medicinal properties. It has antiseptic, anti-viral, antibacterial, anti-genotoxic and anti-inflammatory uses.

Externally Calendula is effective for skin problems such as cuts, abrasions, sunburn, burns, acne, rashes, dermatitis, eczema, tinea, diaper rash, almost any skin disorder, boils, abscesses, remove wrinkles etc.

Internally it can be useful for constipation, abdominal pain, gastritis, peptic ulcers, recurrent vomiting, colitis, gastrointestinal problems, menstrual problems, headaches, toothaches and even tuberculosis, liver complaints, cleansing for the liver and gallbladder. Calendula flowers can be added to massage oils and salves to soften skin and also makes a great conditioner for oily hair.

In history it has been reported that:

  • The ancient Romans used calendula to treat scorpion bites
  • Soldiers in the American Civil War found it helped stop wounds from bleeding
  • European folk medicine healers used it to induce menses, produce sweat during fevers, and to cure jaundice
  • Rub a calendula flower onto a bee or wasp sting to relieve pain and reduce swelling

Calendula can be used as creams, salves, teas and tinctures. While I don’t recommend how you use these here are some recipes you might like to try.

Calendula tea: pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of calendula flowers, sit for 15 minutes before drinking.

Calendula tincture: soak a cup of flowers in 600mls of rectified alcohol for 5 to 6 weeks. Five to fifteen drops of this may be taken with water or tea with no more than 3 doses per day.

Calendula salve: boil 30 grams of dried flowers or leaves in 30 grams of lard for external use only

Calendula ointment: add 2 handfuls of calendula leaves and flowers to 1tbsp lanolin, 5tbsp olive oil and 1tbsp beeswax and heat gently. Mix together; take off the heat and leave to set. The following morning re-heat the mixture and pour into a sterile jar and leave to harden.

Pansies

Pansies, with those interesting faces, watching you so seriously from the garden bed, (maybe saying ‘pick me I’d love to come inside’) as you pass by. The pansy is a hybrid of a couple of viola species, early varieties of which were wildflowers throughout many parts of Europe, the viola family includes both pansies and violets. William Thompson, gardener on the estate of Lord Gambier at Iver, Buckinghamshire in 1823 began crossing various species of viola that were the start of the modern Viola X wittrockiana or pansy. The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée meaning ‘thought’ because the flower resembles a face deep in thought. The pansy is a symbol for ‘Free thought’.

While initially biennials, modern hybrids have been bred to be annuals. Through the years breeders have given us a wide range of colours to choose from including yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, white and almost black. They fall into three main colour groups, a single colour such as yellow or blue, a single colour with black lines radiating out from the centre or the most common with the dark centre or ‘face’. A pansy flower has 2 top petals which overlap slightly, 2 side petals and a single bottom petal.

Some pansies, usually the yellow or blue ones, have a delicate perfume which is noticeable in the early morning, this was stronger in the original pansies.

In cold climates the pansy grows in the warmer months but in our warmer climate they grow best in our cooler months and will go on blooming as the warm weather starts but as it heats up will soon stop blooming and die. They do not like hot and muggy weather. Pansies can be grown in the garden or in pots. Pots can be moved into the house for short periods but prefer the outdoors. They do best in a rich, well drained soil with a ph between 6.0 and 6.5. They grow and flower best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade but too much shade will cause them to get straggly and not flower. Plants will grow to about 20cm in diameter and about 15 to 20cm high. Seeds can be planted directly into the soil or in seed trays but they are small seeds so don’t plant too deeply and water in well (They take a while to germinate). When they start flowering pick flowers with their stem to go in vases or float bowls or if you prefer to leave them in the garden remove the spent flowers to encourage more flowers. Foliar fertilising will help them to bloom and stay healthier for longer.
They don’t have too many problems when growing. Slugs and snails do like their succulent leaves as do grasshoppers and occasionally aphids may attack them. Snails and slugs can be stopped with barriers or traps and the aphids can be treated with a ‘soap spray’. Pansies don’t like to be thirsty but try to water their roots not leaves. Mulch them well to conserve moisture.

Like their cousins the violets, pansy flowers are edible as are their leaves. They are high in Vitamin A and C. Flowers can be candied, used to make syrups, added to salads, as flavouring for honey or as garnishes. The flowers have a mild minty flavour.
Medicinally pansies have been used to make infusions and teas for treating skin conditions such as eczema and acne and for some urinary tract problems.

Pansies have inspired many artists and crafty people in pictures, postcards, embroidery, handiwork and ceramics. They have also inspired many writers and poets including Wordsworth, Shakespeare and D. H. Lawrence.

Add a few to your garden this year.