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Journal

Growing and Drying Calendula

If I’m honest, one of the reasons I grow calendula is that it is easy. The name - calendula officinalis - refers to the way that in temperate climates it will bloom every month of the year. It doesn’t quite do that here but there are flowers more months than not. The seeds are large and irregularly shaped - easy for children to handle - and can be grown out in a flower bed or in large pots. Sow in either September to overwinter or March/April. Once you have an established patch you will probably find that it self sows happily. I would love to know how you get on growing calendula and making things from it, such as this balm. Please tag me @snapdragon.life on Instagram or use the hashtag #snapdragonlife.

  • Clear a patch of soil in your garden or pot and rake it level. Draw lines in the soil with a cane - about 15 cm apart. These can be straight or a spiral - the point is that you can see your calendula seedlings following the line and weed everything else out. As the plants grow you won’t see the lines at all.
  • If it is dry weather then carefully water along the lines and allow them to drain.

     

  • Sow 2 seeds every 5 cm along the lines. Smooth the soil gently back over the seeds and water.
  • Thin out the plants as they grow so you end up with one healthy calendula seedling every 10cm

OR...

  • Sow seeds, 2 to a small pot, and keep watering until you see the roots growing through the holes in the bottom. Then plant into a larger pot or out into the garden.
  • Deadhead regularly and they will keep flowering all summer. Or pick flowers for the house, it has the same effect, the more you pick, the more flowers will grow.

My favourite varieties of calendula

Snow Princess - a lovely mix of pale yellows, ranging from buttery cream to lemon.

A Touch of Red Buff - small apricot flowers with red backs to the petals.

Orange King - the classic strong orange marigold - massses of petals make it perfect when you want to make balms and oils.

Sherbet - another pale small flowered marigold that fits well into a more subtle garden.

Indian Prince - reddish orange petals and small flowers - this fits well with reds, purples and lime green in the classic bright and rich border.

How to dry calendula

  • It is easy to dry calendula as you can keep the heads intact. You can also use a dehydrator if you have one.
  • Choose a dry day so that there is no dew or rain on the petals.
  • Cut the flowers off the stems - as close to the head of the flower as possible.
  • Spread the flowers out on grids close together, but so they are not touching.
  • Put the grid somewhere warm - an airing cupboard is ideal.
  • Leave for 2-4 weeks until completely dry.
  • You can either leave as whole flowers of pull the petals off.
  • Store in a wide wide necked jar or use in recipes.

We have put together a beautiful box with everything you need to grow your own calendula and make your own calendula balm - you can find it here.

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Flowers picked, stripped and plonked in a jug. ⁠⁠
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I was planning to do a fancy arrangement but then they looked so light and pretty as they are.⁠⁠
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Simple so often the best.
The tansy is about to flower in the Studio Meadow.⁠⁠
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When I arranged flowers for weddings I always thought that the best thing about having properly seasonal flowers was that you would remember every year as plants came into bloom. ⁠⁠
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I got very involved with weddings, couples became good friends and I still associate plants in my garden with specific people. ⁠⁠
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Tansy would not be a good plant for a wedding though really - its history is a dark one, tied up with abortion and despair - but it is the plant I associate with my first attempt to dye fabric with plants.  Every year it blooms I realise how far I have come.⁠⁠
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For that first attempt was was a failure - too big a piece of fabric, not enough scouring and then a hissy fit at the lack of colour, which ended up with chucking too much ferrous sulphate into the pan and ruining it further into a blotchy grey.⁠⁠
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This weekend I go to Gartur Stitch Farm @katgoldin to learn more about dyeing with local plants and indigo with Julia @woollenflower . ⁠⁠
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Then, after that, I shall harvest this year's tansy . . . .⁠⁠ 
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A sunny evening in the studio.⁠⁠
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The fabrics I have been dyeing over the weekend rinsed and drying on the clothes horse.⁠⁠
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Maybe it is the heat, maybe its the perfect ripeness of the plants - I don't know - but this batch of foraged colour is particularly mouthwatering. Lush and soft and perfectly balanced.⁠⁠
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This is the last lengths that I am dyeing for the summer sampler sets of plant dyed fabrics, ribbons and threads that will go into the Studio Members shop at the end of the week.  I will email out the link when they are live.⁠⁠
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Making things like this is small scale and slow - so much love and care goes into these sampler sets, from the picking of the plants to the hand drawing of the gift cards.  I wouldn't have it any other way.⁠⁠

If you aren’t already a member of the Studio Club and would like to join -  to see behind the scenes, get the monthly journal and access all the members only blogs, courses and shop - the link is in my bio.
'You have to be fast to get the sweet peas'.⁠⁠
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This is what I was told last Sunday at Drymen Community  Garden Open Day. ⁠⁠
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They were talking about the dozen or so bunches I've been taking down to the Crop Swap outside the Village shop on Drymen Main Street each Saturday morning for the past couple of months.⁠⁠
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They are first things to be snapped up from the table.  I was delighted to find that many were being taken to neighbours, dropped off with the newspaper on the way home.⁠⁠
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If feels right for this most generous of flowers.
Did you have a spirograph as a child?⁠⁠
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The dahlias have started blooming and I'm thinking I could use one to draw them.
This is my Studio - where everything happens. ⁠⁠
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At the moment it is surrounded by a bright and jazzy mix of loosestrife and buttercups and poppies - teasels, tansy and sanguisorba rising up, ready to carry on the next act of the show.⁠⁠
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This little patch of land - really just a bank of spoil from building the studio - is different every day, an ever changing inspiration.⁠⁠ A reminder that things ebb and flow, bright and muted, high and low. 
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The heart of the Studio Club.
This was a new thing for me. ⁠⁠
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Mass rather than lines.⁠⁠
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An applique cushion made from pieces of my natural dyed fabrics, a still life of shapes - some hand quilted, some machine embroidered.⁠⁠
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Strawberry moon and vases.⁠⁠
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I'm currently spending time sitting in the shade most days, working on more pieces a little like this, aiming to put together a little collection for the Studio Club shop in the next couple of weeks.⁠⁠
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There will also be some more sampler boxes of plant dyed fabrics as the last ones sold out so fast!⁠⁠
A close up of the Studio shelf. ⁠⁠
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The white allium is from a garlic bulb in the poly tunnel - stressed and desperate to seed - snipped from the spread of drying bulbs that scent the hot air.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

Learn more about why here

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