I was never a fan of marigolds. They seemed so basic. Nothing special. Not showy. I was drawn to hibiscus and roses and camellias. Flowers that fill you with wonderment that something so beautiful exists in nature. In the nursery, I would hurry past the marigolds and head for something exotic. In people’s yards I would think, “Hmphhh, marigolds.”
When I started planning our spot at the community garden, I began reading a lot about companion planting. I liked the idea of combining certain combinations of plants to get better results. I decided I wanted to focus on peppers and was even envisioning myself as the Pepper Queen, so I really dug into researching the best companion plants for peppers. Marigolds were at the top of the list. Marigolds? I also wanted to plant tomatoes and a good companion plant for them is marigolds. Marigolds were on the list as a good companion for every plant I looked up. Although not necessarily a scientific fact, a lot of gardeners believe that marigolds repel pests including aphids, tomato hornworms, cabbageworms, mosquitoes, squash bugs, and whiteflies. They’re also supposed to produce toxic chemicals that kill harmful nematodes that feed on plant roots.
Okay marigolds - you win. I planted a lot of marigolds. My plants grew strong and healthy and I didn’t have any pests in the garden. I can’t be certain the marigolds were the reason but I started calling them my hero plant. They were bright and cheerful and made me smile every time I looked at them. Plus they’re edible.
“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” – Theodore Roethke
I started to think about marigolds a lot and how I had always under-appreciated them. I thought about how easy they are to grow and how they are self-seeding so they reproduce without requiring any effort. They’re really hardy and bloom most of the year. It made me question how I place my value and what I consider “special.”
My plant thoughts turned to people thoughts and I asked myself, “Who are the marigolds in my life? Who is it that does a disproportionate amount of the work but gets ignored in favor of other people who are showier? Or needier?”
I started to wonder if I am a marigold or something more finicky like a rose? Am I a steady friend, co-worker and employee, or one that needs a lot of attention and can be unreliable? Do I need perfect conditions to thrive or am I a high performer even when it’s less than ideal? And most importantly, where am I on the list of companion plants? Do I provide a benefit for the people around me?
I do like to think that I’m adaptable because whereas I started out intending to be the Pepper Queen, as I stroll through the garden admiring the marigolds I’m perfectly content to be the Marigold Queen instead.