If you’re brainstorming the coming season’s garden and are looking for a low-maintenance, multi-use, beautiful, and long-blooming flower, look no further than the golden-petalled Calendula!
Growing Calendula is super simple and for the myriad benefits it offers, there is really no reason not to plant it if you have a spare patch of garden or even a decent-sized planter pot! I have been growing Calendula for the past two seasons in a semi-arid climate with very hot, dry summers and cold winters and have found it to be extremely hardy.
Ok, so what are these manifold benefits that I’m talking about? For one, if planted early in the season you’ve got beautiful blooms until well after your first frost. I myself live in the Okanagan region of Western Canada (plant hardiness zone 7a). This season, I planted some of last year’s seeds both in a raised garden bed in amongst my veggies, and in a spare patch of ground level garden at our rental house that we moved into in March. As I write this, it is late November, and there are still a few blooms opening up, whereas most of my other annuals have died off. For folks who live in milder climates, Calendula will be a short-lived perennial, whereas in harsher climates it will be a long-lived annual plant.
The soil quality in the garden bed and the garden patch (both of which we inherited from previous renters) is generally poor and I wanted something that would deter some of the weeds we had popping up, as well as attracting beneficial pollinators. Calendula, I should mention, is both a nectar and pollen source for insects such as native honey bees, and it stepped up to the job like a champ! My Calendula blooms were buzzing with life and required very little maintenance, other than a bit of watering during the hottest months. If you’d like to see some of the Calendula that I had in my garden this year, check out the video below!
If you just want pretty flowers, there’s no harm in growing Calendula for its bright yellow to deep orange blossoms. However, this talented plant is also very much edible and is a great medicinal plant to work with for wildcrafted teas and skin products.
The truth is that even though I’ve only been growing Calendula for the past 2 years, I have been familiar with it its regenerative properties since I was very young. Unfortunately, I have always suffered from recurrent eczema. When I was younger it was especially bad, with my wrists and inner elbows often bloody from all the scratching. I remember my mom giving me Calendula cream to sooth the irritation, and although it didn’t cure the eczema completely, it worked very well to calm and moisturize the skin and decrease the persistent itching.
Another instance where I saw Calendula’s magic at work was when I spent a few months volunteering at a wildlife rescue centre in my mid-twenties. At the centre, we often had animals coming in that had been struck by vehicles on the highway and had ended up with every kind of gruesome injury imaginable. It was pretty incredible to see some of their recoveries, aided by the Calendula serum we applied to their wounds. I remember one deer who (disclaimer, some gory descriptions ahead!) had pretty much all of the skin from her rear end taken off when she has struck by a vehicle. I honestly didn’t think she would survive because there was no way to stitch it up. We applied some Calendula serum for regeneration and some honey to disinfect the wound topically. Within a couple of days she was on her feet, eating normally, and within a couple of weeks, the improvement in terms of tissue regeneration was pretty astounding.
I am currently drying out this year’s blooms and plan to make an infused oil which I will use in lip balms and creams that I already make myself. For a quick tutorial on that (sans the Calendula element), see the video below!
Now, go forth my friends and plant some Calendula for yourselves, your gardens, and your pollinators!
My name is Lucie and I live in Kelowna, Canada, where I run a permaculture group, make art, and work at a non-profit organization that empowers people by teaching cooking, farming, and employment skills. I also teach the economics module and mentor students through the Permaculture Women’s Guild online PDC. To find out more about me and what I do please visit luciebardos.net.