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It took fifteen years to do an experiment with one flower – the African marigold. It’s taken a small garden plot, a few choice seeds, patience and careful work. A very artistic and superior strain has been developed is the result of a process of elimination of the inferior and the selection of the best seed plants year after year.
In the Spring of 1994, seeds of the Orange Prince, Yellow Supreme, Sunset Giants and a large unnamed variety, were planted; each in a separate bed. About 100 plants were set out before June 10; two to four plants around a good, firm stake. As they grew they were tied carefully but securely. This first season produced a large harvest of fine blooms. The very best ones in size and color, and those of artistic form that stood erect on strong long stems, were saved for seed. They were bunched as to color and hung up to be thoroughly dried before the seed was taken.
The elimination of all plants as they began blooming, bearing single, semi-double and strong-odored blooms began at once to be beneficial. The first Summer, at least, 60 percent of the plants were destroyed before the bees and insects had an opportunity to cross pollinize the best blooms with pollen from the inferior ones in the garden. Each year the operation was repeated so that during the first five years, the number of inferior plants was reduced to about 18 percent. The next five years, by actual counts, the per cent was lowered to 12, and the last five years not over five per cent have been inferior producing plants.
The selection of best seed plants, year after year, has produced outstanding qualities of color, odor, general size of blooms, the length and strength of stems and large strong plants.
These features began to manifest themselves in a small way from the very start. They have increased in degree throughout the whole trial. The color range following all the original varieties, from a very light, pale yellow, through gold to a very deep orange, has been maintained and their brilliancy intensified. While intensely full, or complex, the blooms are unexcelled in artistic beauty.
For the first seven years, the percent of large blooms – four inches or over – was under the usual 10 per cent claimed for the African marigold group. From then on, the per cent reached 10 or over. In the fourteenth year, out of 420 plants, one patch of 320 grown from seed taken from the run of the garden, yielded 22 per cent. The other patch of 100 plants – seed from special blooms – produced 18 percent.
The African marigold, grown around stakes and tied firmly, makes a glorious display of color from August 1 until heavy frost comes; sometimes here as late as November 20. They are fine for cutting – 10 to 29 fine blooms – and with good odor, color, strong stems and foliage, make an unforgettable bouquet for the home or office.
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