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Articles » The Marigold in California: a supplement
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The modern marigold owes much of its development to the vision and persistence of David Burpee. If you have read “The Marigold in California”, Pacific Horticulture (October, November and December 2010) you will be aware of this. Other companies in the Lompoc Valley such as John Bodger, Glenn Goldsmith and Denholm also played an important role.

This supplement contains more details about all their work. There are two lists of marigolds which won awards at the All America Select trials over the years. One is chronological and the other is alphabetical.

Another section deals with the results of Burpee’s prolonged production of new hybrid marigolds and how they fared in commerce over time. I have examined more than 100 years of Burpee catalogues and extracted information about the marigold and its transformation over those years.

This information is summarized in two further tables. One is an alphabetical list of all Burpee marigolds over that period. The other lists the same cultivars chronologically.

These tables are accompanied by an analysis of what can be learned from the findings.


I performed an analysis of more than 100 years of Burpee advertisements for marigolds, starting in 1887 and ending in 1998. This was possible because the director of the Lompoc Museum, Dr Lisa Renken and her team of docents very kindly made copies of old Burpee catalogues for me.

The museum is the beneficiary of the generosity of the Manfrina family, Myra and Walt. The Manfrinas had carefully collected the catalogues over the years and after Walt died, Myra donated them to the museum. There was an almost complete run, with only a few years missing.

I filled most of the gaps using the University of California at Davis’s collection of nursery catalogues with the assistance of Darryl Morison, director of special collections at Davis, and John Skarstad, archivist. After this the only remaining gaps were for 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1989.

I entered each cultivar into a database, with the year it was introduced. Every time it appeared in a catalogue I made a new entry, allowing me to see how long it remained in commerce and thus when it ceased to be advertised for sale. The total number of entries was 3310. This covered 330 cultivars.

There are small caveats about the entries. Any enterprise of this sort is prone to errors of inclusion and exclusion but I made every effort to double-check the entries as I proceeded.

One difficulty arose from sorting out collections of cultivars under cultivar names, such as ‘Mammoth Fluffy ‘Mums’, a chrysanthemum-flowered marigold cultivar in three colors or ‘Sun Giants’, a tall African variety. Not only were the individual colored flowers sold separately but in some years a collection was offered. It is possible I may have missed an occasional cultivar being sold. I do not think any such minor errors change the general shape of the findings.

It must be remembered that not every cultivar in the Burpee catalogue was bred by the firm. The overwhelming majority of their merchandise was their own but they were excellent business people and sold whatever was attractive, no matter the source.


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