A memory in marigolds…


My family owned a greenhouse from before the time I was born, so I always think

that I grew up in a greenhouse.  Actually, I grew up in the white house behind the

greenhouse- a ramshackle old house with seven bedrooms, one bath and very few

amenities- but filled with people large and small, loving and working together.

I was one of the “little girls”.  There were three of us- and we were considerably younger

than our older sibs.  In fact, as I was growing up, my older sister and brothers were the

“grown ups” in my life- and I learned at a young age to deal with many bosses.

But the marigolds in the picture above brought to mind one of those moments of

passage that come in our lives, taking us further from childhood and affording a view

of the possibilities that open as we can take life into our own hands and become independent.

I was still a child- not more than 10 years old- but my mother gave me a small packet of seeds

and a flat full of sterilized dirt.  She said it was mine.  I could plant it and take care of it and if

I wanted, could sell it and keep the money.

I don’t remember if she gave my sisters the same opportunity-or if she did, if they took her

up on it-BUT that flat of marigolds was so important to me that Spring.  I carefully gridded

the dirt and planted the seeds so that they would grow into a full flat.  Sparse or patchy flats

never sold well- so I placed the seeds 3/4 of an inch apart- using an old wooden ruler to measure

the distance.  I misted it to keep the seeds from shifting and placed it in the hot bed on the side of

the greenhouse to keep them warm while they germinated.  I planted them in mid-February to

give them plenty of time to flower before early Summer.  And I watched over them- keeping

them moist but well drained. 

They were dwarf French marigolds- the packet said they were named “Brownie” and I loved

the sturdy stems and leaves that grew and the brown and yellow flowers that emerged by

early May.  I dead headed them to keep them trim and healthy and didn’t allow any of the

blooms to go to seed.  I was so attuned to MY flat of flowers that I started to pay more

attention to the plants growing alongside them.  What had been a job before, became a joy!

I watered, weeded, dead headed, moved, filled packs with dirt, and just did my chores

with more patience and interest than I ever had before- because my marigolds were growing

out there, too!

And customers were looking at my marigolds.  Inquiring, “How much?” 

My mother turned to me and asked if I was ready to sell them yet.

“No, not yet.” I replied each time.

These were my marigolds.  My little “Brownies” and I wanted to keep them.

So- the flats all around them sold, and mine kept flourishing.  They became thick and

sturdy, covered with blossoms- making the other flats look poor in comparison- and still

I wanted to keep them.

Finally, we moved them to the back of the greenhouse.

I think my mom thought I was never going to sell them.

But she was pretty tricky, my mother.

And she took me and my sisters to Robert Hall’s – the clothing store up the street-

to look for bathing suits.  It was late May by this time, and the weather was getting hot.

My sisters picked suits within the budgeted amount, and the clerk rang them up and put

them in a bag.  But the suit I had my eye on was black and had four rows of black corded fringe

at the hips.  To my ten year old eyes, it was tres chic, and I wanted it.

It was also tres expensive` and about seven dollars over my mother’s budget.

I went over the other suits again, but after trying on that black number and shimmying those

rows of fringe by shaking my hips, they were all boring and ugly.

My mom said she would pay part of it, but I’d have to come up with the rest of the money.

I had no money.  Money was to be spent as soon as it touched my hand.

I was not a saving little girl- I was more of a free spirit.

My sister, Robin, was a saver- and she offered me the money- but ,”No”, said my mother,

“if Heidi wants it bad enough, she will find a way to pay for it herself.”

So – we went home.

My sisters had their swim suits.  I had nothing but a black fringed vision in my head.

Sometime during the following week, that flat of marigolds made it back to the

front of the greenhouse.  And the plants were gorgeous!  They were flowering and

full- and the flats around them, although perfectly nice, just didn’t come close in appeal.

I sold my flat of marigolds that week. 

A lady paid me a small fortune- $8 for the flat!

I paid the difference, got the suit- treated Robin and my mom to a mug of root beer at A+W,

and felt like an entrepreneur.

I wore that suit for the next two seasons of Summer.

Every time I wore it- I felt beautiful and smart.

And I have always appreciated the beauty and economy of flowering marigolds.


I came across these volunteer marigolds in my flower bed the

other day, and suddenly, I was a little girl again.

OH- the power of marigolds- and black fringed bathing suits!

14 thoughts on “A memory in marigolds…

  1. Looks like that entrepreneurial spirit was with you from young. How beautiful it is to be able to suddenly remember the past so vividly from a simple reminder.

    There are restaurants in Sydney called Marigold which have existed for decades and to think that I didn’t even know what that flower looked like until now! Thank you for yet another beautiful post!

    • Thank you, Chopin- the most wonderful thing about marigolds, to me, is their fragrance- sharp and tangy- almost astringent. A crushed marigold gives off quite a smell. I think my memory is stronger is smell than anything else!
      And there were a lot of aromas in a greenhouse!

  2. I LOVE this memory of yours!! I, too, have memories of the greenhouse, but they are fuzzy and sparse. I may have been two or three?? I love marigolds, as well. Those are the one flower that I plant every year! BTW, that ramshackled old house had the BEST bathtub for little girls to bathe in, especially when some fun aunts would draw smile faces on their knees! Sweet memories!

    • Thanks, Martha!
      It’s funny how things come into your mind so clearly- and those marigolds in their Autumn lackluster appearance brought back my beautiful flat of brownie marigolds. The greenhouse memories are very strong with me because they all have their own scent and atmosphere. And I smile when thinking about that bathroom-we all shared rather amicably- and there never was a lock on the door. Everyone ALWAYS knocked before entering- ALWAYS KNOCKED. It was a very friendly old house. Especially for little girls. 🙂

  3. I’ve always liked Marigolds. No I was never offered the opportunity to grow a flat of flowers of my own. There are times when I miss the greenhouse. It was nice to be able to run out to the greenhouse in the middle of winter and bring in a beautiful plant to brighten the house. That was a beautiful memory to share, thanks.

    • You know, Cynthia,I really don’t think she gave anyone else that particular opportunity. Maybe she though I was careless in my treatment of the flowers and veggies she so painstaking planted and transplanted and needed a lesson in caring for the seedlings. Or maybe I was out sitting next to her potting bench and telling her one of my very long and convoluted tales and she thought she could keep me quiet for a moment of blissful silence.
      😀 I really don’t know- only that I loved that flat of marigolds more than any of the toys or pets I had and that I loved that black bathing suit more!

  4. Love this post Heidi. I can just imagine you as a 10 year old swinging the fringing around on your bathers.
    I think marigolds were one of the first flowers I grew as a kid as well, there was no money incentive though and my little patch of the garden slowly lost its appeal over time. Geez, I’d give anything to be able to have that patch of dirt back!

    • I know, Brydie- I drive by greenhouses and then turn around and go in all the time. I love the smell and feel of dirt. When my dad would sterilize the dirt with a steam tent, the aroma was so deep and earthy- it was better than the smell of an apple pie or the best perfume. 🙂

    • Thanks, Christine. I blog so I can write.
      I have all these memories and stories and recipes to share- I’m glad you liked my marigold memory.
      My oldest “kid” is in his 30’s and he claims to remember very little.
      That could be because I not only have a good memory, but am an inveterate storyteller and he doesn’t want to give me any more stories to add. Although he is a priest and I keep hearing small stories from his past imbedded in his sermons.

    • I did love it. After 2 years it was a little snug and I had to pass it down to my younger sister. It still looked good- but I’ve never found another suit that could compare with the magic of that suit!
      It must have been the marigold magic!

  5. I love this story too ! I haven’t grown marigolds for a while on account of the snails and slugs find them so very tasty, but I do adore them. Keep telling the stories, they’re great 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *