One of the most critical parts of garden planning is knowing how the plants will look weeks, months and years later. Anyone who has ever had an over-planted landscape will tell you how time-intensive it is to stay ahead of constant trimming, pruning and dividing.
But what if you are just planting a few annuals? How hard can that be? What could possibly go wrong? In the grand scheme of the world, not much really. After all, we’re talking about a few flowers. But in the scheme of your everyday garden maintenance, you can wind up with a few challenges.
Our flower challenge this year came in the form of marigolds. Sweet, unassuming, easy-to-manage marigolds. One of the kings of companion planting and pollinator attracting. If you ask my mom, every garden should have some. Always listen to your mom.
One of our favorite varieties is the Taj Mahal Marigold. We grew this beautiful, exotic variety last season for the first time. They grew over 2 feet tall, spreading out with huge numbers of vibrantly-coloured, fragrant blooms, and creating a bee haven in our little flower garden.
This year, due to unforeseen circumstances, we couldn’t get our garden seeds started on time, or monitored as we like to. 3 tiny Taj Mahal marigolds sprouted, and that’s all there were. Seeds cannot be neglected as we neglected all of ours this drama-filled spring. No seeds were re-planted. If it grew and survived, great. If not, no time to worry about it. The garden would have what it had, and that was that.
So, what to do with the 3 little stems? The Taj Mahals had spread and grown beautifully the year before, so we tried again. I planted them in a 4 x 2 raised garden bed. They looked lonely and sad. I bought some more marigolds at the garden centre to put around the sides of the bed so it didn’t look so sparse. Turns out that was totally unnecessary. The Taj Mahals grew and grew and spread and spread until the whole 4×2 bed was filled and they were spilling over the herb pots beside them and everywhere they could reach. The nursery marigolds had to be rescued from under the canopy of Taj Mahals, and relocated into the vegetable garden. By August, our 3 little stems were now covering an 6 x 4 area, and had reached 4 feet tall. I attribute their thriving to the wonderful soil in the bed, and the all-summer heat wave. We had really not expected the plants to be nearly double the size they were last year.
Their size brought a new challenge. They sat in a mere 10 inches of soil. Not nearly deep enough for plants with that height and weight. We staked them again and again as each new branch needed it’s own support. Even when a major stem had split and collapsed after a violent thunderstorm, we picked it back up, garden-taped the stem together, staked it again, and it recovered in a day. It was necessary to water deeply twice a day on the hottest days. We were used to this kind of intensive attention for smaller containers and pots, but these raised beds were usually easy maintenance with the other flowers and herbs in them. Not with Marigold-zilla growing in them. But it has been worth every minute spent.
What a joy they have been to see, sniff and cut. The bees have been very appreciated indeed. I wonder how they will do next year. We will be prepared with new stakes and clips, and may raise the height of the bed to accommodate their roots better. I’m not sure who’s boss in this garden … but for the time being, it looks like Taj is king.