Back when I used to read the seed catalogues religiously this time of year, I remember being impressed by the Burpee Company’s obsessive quest for a white marigold. Since seed catalogues were pretty much the only kind of catalogues I spent any time with, I am not sure when “marigold” became a standard descriptor for a certain shade of orange. But the search for a pure white marigold seemed vaguely subversive, if not completely comprehensible.
I see now that the Burpee breeders did achieve their goal, evidently more than once. The on-line catalogue features a hybrid they call French Vanilla. (Hmm, maybe a competitor should develop a “Freedom White” variety?) The catalogue also includes another white marigold – evidently an earlier success – called Snowdrift.
It’s always refreshing to find new product names with some actual, albeit tenuous, link to reality. This seems to be the case with Snowdrift, which “prefers some afternoon shade in regions where summers are extremely hot.” In another words, this marigold’s so Nordic it might not even make it in Mexico, where marigolds originated.
The original breeders of marigolds had something more than mere decorative values in mind. In Mexico, the flower has always had a strong connection with rites for the dead. Oddly enough, that connection survived its transplant to India, though not to the United States. If it had, perhaps the folks at Burpee would have developed a black marigold by now. Now that would be the sort of flower that might lure me back into serious gardening.
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At certain spots on the banks of the stream where the wind has drawn the snow away into drifts – white brows arched over the dark current – some mornings you can find flowers, small things with petals that face in every direction. They blossom on cold nights when the stars wheel slowly overhead, rooted in the north. When at last the sun reaches them, their gleaming petals unfold, turn moist, dissolve. Steam rises from the stones in lieu of pollen.
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Hitched to the roof I too
would turn snow
melt to crystal,
& sky &