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Holiday Heat!

by germinatrix | December 7th, 2009

I know the holidays are here when these appear...

I know the holidays are here when these appear...

It’s DECEMBER! How did THAT happen?

I love it … Los Angeles finally cools down in December. I am wearing sweaters and a warm coat (even though it is only 63 degrees – I know, I don’t know what REAL cold is!) and I’m  feeling quite cozy.

But by the look of things outside, one would think that it’s the middle of summer! While other climates are hunkering down for the winter and gardens are going fallow, here in Los Angeles the hottest harbinger of Christmas has started to bloom! Tagetes lemonii, otherwise known as Pot Marigold, Mexican Marigold, or Copper Canyon Daisy, is holding court in a BIG way – especially here in this lovely hillside garden I worked on last year.

bold hillside color, even when it's cold!

bold hillside color, even when it's cold!

Tagetes lemonii is such a workhorse – an undeniable asset in any garden, but especially in the tough, drought tolerant, succulent mad landscapes I love. It pairs beautifully with grasses and playfully tickles the sturdy leaves of large scale agaves, complimenting them and showing that they, too, can have a soft side. I also LOVE it paired with my current plant crush – Acacia covenyi, a GORGEOUS gray leaved small scale tree (or big shrub – you can decide based on your pruning technique). You can see them in close proximity in the photo above – I SWOON!

the bright daisy makes a cute girlfriend for the handsome phormium!

the bright daisy makes a cute girlfriend for the handsome phormium!

This is not a plant without controversy! Some people can’t stand the smell – others adore it. I’m somewhere in the middle. I like it, but I tend to plant it where you have to go out of your way to brush up against it and enjoy its pungent herbal note – as opposed to something like lavender, which I’ll plant next to a path or a seating area for easy olfactory access.

another happy couple- that daisy sure gets around!

another happy couple- that daisy sure gets around!

This shrubby perennial gets BIG, so cutting back a couple of times a year is a MUST. I’ve read that one should cut it before flowering – I don’t. I cut it after flowering and have always been very happy with the results. But of course, if you cut if after a flowering you are technically cutting it before the next flowering, so … whatever. Potato, po TAH to!

So if you are a lover of plants that bring the hot colors, and you want some late fall flower color – what are you waiting for? Plant this crazy daisy and have a hot holiday season!

9 Responses to “Holiday Heat!”

  1. Wow! The combination of the tagetes with the agave in the second photo is killer! LOVE it. I’m totally stealing the idea, but probably, just perhaps, with a different sort of marigold. Plants that try and flower in December don’t usually make it too long in this climate, where we know it is getting close to Christmas because of a strange, powdery white substance called “snow.”

  2. Great looking photographs of a wonderful workhorse of a plant.
    Put me in the camp of ‘can’t stand the smell’.
    uhggg! It’s just not for me. Stinky gym sneakers.
    But it is undeniably beautiful especially when paired with Salvia leucantha, Anigozanthus and succulents of all kinds, especially like the Agave americana that you have paired it up with in your second photo.
    luv all your combo’s.
    Happy holidaze

  3. Hi G.
    Stinky gym sneakers…I love that!

    CCD…One of my end of year favorites, though the jury is out for me regarding it’s rather “unique” aroma, oh and what an aroma it has. I am always a little self conscious after brushing up against it then going out in public. I swear, people catch a whiff of it on me and think that a cat has sprayed on my clothes…I can see it in their eyes, their body language. I know what they are thinking…that I am one of those eccentric people with fifty cats all over my house.

    I do love how happy it looks with it’s rich golden color, and it is so dependable in the drought and the heat. I planted two more this year, like you, in a “safe” non-traffic area. It looks great up against those large silver agaves. Note to self.

    Your hillside garden design looks great G, the owners must be pleased.


  4. It looks great against the artemisia! My landlord planted pot marigold, among other things, in the strip along the street. It looked so pretty. Until the morons on my street trampled all over it getting in and out of their cars.

  5. If you can’t stand the smell, what about T. lucida? It has a tarragony-licorice sorta scent with similar blooms. Now that I think of it, I wonder if the ones downtown are blooming… seems to me they were generally gone to seed this time of year.

    In any case, re: the weather, I’m always puzzled about how to decorate for the holidays in Houston. (Or for fall, for that matter.) I feel like we should be using more local plants. We do have pines and hollies, but I think I’m going to move toward centering on oranges…

  6. Steal away, Joseph! I love nothing more than sharing awesome combos – and this is one of the best! And that powdery white stuff falling from the sky? I have heard tales of it … a fearsome thing! I quiver and quake just thinking of it. Or maybe I’m really shivering and shaking – hard to tell…
    Thanks for stopping by!

    Michelle D! How ARE you?
    it’s funny, I’ve gone back and forth on the smell thing – when I first met T. lemonii, I HATED the scent – EEWW!!! It reeked. I couldn’t take it. And then, after time went by, somehow its pungency stopped bothering me. I even found myself kind of LIKING it! Huh? WEIRD! But you are totally right – sometimes, the distinct overtones of sweaty gym socks are present when the wind whips the Tagetes foliage!

    ESP, old pal!!! You inspired this post, btw, with the lovely pic of the tagetes in your garden! A couple of days later I was doing a check-up on this client’s garden and was blown away with their performance!
    Michelle D. totally hit the nail on the head with the gym socks! Even though I no longer mind the smell, I have to admit it has a certain … ripeness! And it DOES tend to cling! Now that you mention ‘Cat Spray’ being an identifiable note, I might have to move back over to the “Hate The Smell” camp! ICKY!!! (Brrrrr, right knee starting to twitch – to coin a phrase from a friend!)

    Hi Fern! It DOES look awesome against Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, doesn’t it? And I think the hellstrip is the PERFECT place to plant a combo like that – but not when the neighbors don’t know the difference between plants and pavers. I get mean with people who step on plants! Especially when they’re planted on the HELLSTRIPS – anyone who plants those areas are donating beauty to the neighborhood! Everyone needs to mind the plants – it takes a VILLAGE, right?

    Hey there Summer – great tip! I’m going to plant one in my house to check it out. If the smell is better, I might have a new fav! And if they don’t bloom at the same time, nothing wrong with having a succession of bright beautiful golden flowers!
    Here in SoCal, the holidays are always orange – literally! The tagetes hit their stride, and the satsumas and clementines are ripe! Orange globes are hanging from trees in almost every backyard – nature’s answer to mercury glass balls! But these are edible! It kind of makes up for our lack of a real x-mas landscape. Kind of.
    BTW, I heard the snow was falling in Houston! That must have been fun! Or did the city go crazy the way we do here when it rains? Either way, snow for the holidays always seems super special!

  7. Beautiful sunny pics Germi! I am not a fan of the marigold/daisy but you make it look good! Thanks for the HEAT. I could use more! 13.2 degrees in my back yard this morning. Yuck.

  8. Loree! I am crossing my fingers for your beautiful plants! I am SUCH a wimp for complaining about the non-freezing temps we have right now!
    And the fact that you like the combos even tough you aren’t a fan of the tagetes is a sign of your wide open horticultural appreciation! You rock! XO!

  9. i swoon for that acacia!! the tagetes i may warm up to, mainly because you make it sound so good!

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