By Joyce Arleen Corson
Editor’s Note: Joyce Arleen Corson is a master gardener who resides at Papakeechie Lake, Syracuse.
SYRACUSE — It was early spring and mother had already worked the soil into a ridge for sweet potatoes on the edge of her garden by the Bracht Ditch, which ran parallel to her garden. This gave me the thought of having my own garden space. She planted sweet corn next, with pumpkins and squash needing shade. Green beans, onions and tomatoes under string guide for precise straight rows.
I nudged her out of a 4-by-4-foot square of soil left from a newly planted orchard. A path between our gardens made it easy access as the fenced-in chicken yard was my north border.
I furrowed a stretch of soil, an inch deep the length of my garden and planted “Mary’s Gold” seed I’d saved from grandma’s garden. I loved squeezing the golden dried top, as taking the black arrows from a quiver, with a feather-like fletching created during pollination. They spun into a fan of sorts and flew all directions if you didn’t have a plan of what to do next.
I planted them by the book 1-inch apart and they grew. It wasn’t until years later when I became a master gardener did I fully appreciate marigolds, and while the Virgin Mary probably possessed no gold to smooth her life in the Holy Family, she wears a crown of gold that circles the earth.
The marigold was used by many as the annual border to the vegetable garden in Farmland U.S.A. They are easy seed savers and showy. I have not always been blessed with full sun spots, which is what they need for big blooms.
A friend, Nancy, from the masters, over her lifetime, found the marigold with just my style. Near perfect every time with blossoms, 1-inch or less, from saved seed. Dwarf tagetes erecta nana, from French lineage. It is often identified as African marigold, as well, but hers are by far the best. I will share.
These brightly colored annuals are extremely popular bedding plants, at least from a distance. They have an overpowering musky smell. It’s particularly strong when marigolds are cut and brought indoors. It is not promised they are heaven scent; the blossom has its own personality.
Master garden classes in Kosciusko County begin in September; call the extension office for further information.