Calendula ‘Touch of Red’

Calendula ‘Touch of Red’

In Southern California, the cool-season annuals have arrived at local nurseries, the violas, stocks, snapdragons, sweet williams, nemesias, Iceland poppies, and lots more I’m forgetting at the moment. Some (or none) appeal to different garden temperaments. I’ve indulged in biennial Iceland poppies now and then and maybe some ranunculus a little closer to spring but often skip over this wintertime opportunity due to the flat-earth, “bedding out” vibe of annuals available locally in season. However….with 2020 seeming to constantly require massive amounts of distraction, I did proactively start some calendula and linaria from seed late summer, two cool-season annuals whose color intensity I love to set against all the surrounding leaves of silver, gold, and blue-grey . My seed-grown plants are still tiny and flowerless. The nursery professionals produced these plants that I potted up last week.

with Linaria ‘Enchantment’

The pros’ timing for getting 4-inch pots of flowers to market is always impeccable. Livelihoods depend on it. I know they employ all kinds of growth stimulators/inhibitors and fertilizers and grow lights and climate control that I don’t. My little plants started from seed late summer may flower in March, or I might neglect to water them during this cursed rainless weather, in which case all the effort will be for naught. For now, thanks to the pros, Calendula ‘Touch of Red,’ a strain I’ve long wanted to grow, is blooming in three large clay bowls, maybe eight plants total. Amazingly cheap thrills even if only for a month.

Calendula are great cut flowers and useful companion plants in vegetable gardens, attracting beneficial insects, and the petals are edible so you can get crazy imaginative with salads, ice cubes for party drinks…

In cool summer climates, calendulas planted in spring will stay with you right through to autumn, or so I’ve read. And that other classic winter annual for zone 10, sweet peas, can also be coaxed to bloom through summer in higher latitudes and cooler summer climates.

dark leaves are Alternanthea ‘Purple Knight’

Whether these “pot marigolds” last through my winter is uncertain, and three months of bloom is a big ask of any annual in my experience in zone 10. Here near the coast calendulas can be prone to mildew. But for now I’m enjoying this new acquaintance with ‘Touch of Red’ — its richness and complexity of color.

If these strong colors strike you as too outre for December, let me remind you that here in Southern California bird of paradise and lantana are currently in full bloom. Outre is happening all over town.


With the ‘Enchantment’ linarias, they are like an ornately jeweled middle finger to the last month of this very fractious year.

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10 Responses to Calendula ‘Touch of Red’

  1. Kris P says:

    Your calendulas and linarias make a splashy combination, Denise. For whatever reason, I haven’t planted any calendulas yet this year, although I love the flowers, especially those of ‘Bronze Beauty’ and ‘Zeolights’ – I’ve never seen ‘Touch of Red’ before but I like it too. I sowed seeds of several varieties of sweet peas, Orlaya, and larkspur, and planted lots of anemone tubers in my cutting garden. As you know, I love flowers. I wage an ongoing battle with the birds over my seedlings until they gain size.

  2. Alicia says:

    The calendulas and linaria make a stellar combination. Both are so colorful and complement each other so well.

  3. Elaine says:

    Enchantment and Touch of Red are stunning together. Ironic that you struggle with annuals that are like weeds for me and I try to grow plants that are so easy and commonplace for you. Grass is always greener! Gorgeous colour at any time of year is always well received.

  4. hb says:

    Beautiful photos. Instagrammy.

    I planted some Calendula seeds too, but nothing happened. Sweet peas are doing well, though.

  5. ks says:

    My Calendula seeds were laid low by birds. By the time I got bird netting up and replanted the temps had settled into 40s at night 30’s in the wee hours. I expect they will appear in Feb, hopefully ! Strong clors are supposed to be the purview of summer but I say let them shine in winter when we need them most..

  6. Denise says:

    Kathy, like I said, sometimes it helps to have the pros supply the plants! Hope some of your seeds germinate.

  7. Denise says:

    Hoov, I’ve got a couple large pots of sweet peas growing against the south wall of the house — they seem very happy there!

  8. Denise says:

    Elaine, it is amazing how gardening is so generalized in books when it is in reality very specific in our own gardens!

  9. Denise says:

    I thought so too, Alicia, if you don’t mind strong colors, and I don’t!

  10. Denise says:

    Kris, ‘Touch of Red’ turned up at my local go-to nursery H&H. They’ve also got some ‘Hercules’ aloes in one-gallons…

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