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Gardening in America
Mullein, Purple Basil and Marigolds
by Nancy Fletcher

Mullein, Purple Basil and MarigoldsMullein is really considered to be a weed. However, the fact that it can grow to six feet in height, has a tall stake of yellow flowers, and soft grey green broad leaves. We like the looks of it in a flower bed like this setting in the middle of the yard. The combination of its grey green leaves with the orange Marigold and Purple Basil, all complement each other in color, texture, and shape. Tall Mullein against a rounded bush of Marigolds and the more free ragged shape of the Purple Basil give a unattractive spot in the back yard a lift.

Quite by accident we discovered the neighbors horses would not lean over the fence to eat the Mullein plant growing on the fence row. They would eat everything else on both sides. In order to maintain friendly relations with the neighbors, we decided to plant a row of this weed looking plant along the fence. Since it comes back every year, it can be transplanted very early in the spring to wherever it might add a charming presence.

Marigolds grow readily in this soil. We save the seed every year and mark the brown bag as to the characteristics of that seed. Over a period of years we had a strain with huge blossoms more like Mums than Marigolds. We discontinued this though because also the stalks were tall and big, almost like a rangy weed. Now we just stick with these small rounded bush looking Marigolds. We feel they are neater and more attractive in a bed. Marigolds do not have a pleasant fragrance in a fresh arrangement. In fact there is almost an objectionable odor to them. Quite by accident one year I gathered a large bunch of the flowers to dry for seeds. I left them setting in a flat basket on the back porch. They were attractive in the natural color of the basket but not to bring into the house. After a couple or three days I went to check on them. When I picked up some of the blossoms, I noticed that drying had changed the smell. There was a fragrance about them resembling expensive cologne. Now, I simply put them in a flat basket until they are dry and then bring them into the house to leave them on a coffee table. The color is very nice and will last until you are tired of it. The blossoms can then be stored in brown paper bags for seeds.

The Purple Basil was given to me years ago by a lady from whom we lived across the street in Norman, Oklahoma. She handed me a start of this and it, like the Mullein, is almost like a weed. We tolerate this though because the purple foliage is so attractive. After twenty-six years of returning every year I notice some of the plants are losing their purple color and come up completely green.

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