ANITA STONE: With Flowers, 'Mum's The Word'
Chrysanthemums are one of my favorite flowers -- those perfect little colorful heads that jump into a horticultural schematic no matter how they are potted.
Called mums for short, they have become the regal fall flower regal due to their royal history, dating to the 15th century B.C. in China.
The word "chrysanthemum" comes from the Greek "chrysous," meaning golden, the flower's original color. By the eighth century mums found their way to Japan and by the seventeenth century Europeans began to enjoy this brilliant flower. In the late eighteenth century, John Stevens, a New Jersey nurseryman, introduced the mum to American gardeners.
Because test gardens have become extremely popular, there are numerous mums in the breeding world. One of the latest research projects is being done in Pennsylvania where Burpee & Company, is attempting to invent a tougher, longer-lasting and stronger-stemmed mum.
For me, mums hold a special place, sort of like the last rose of summer, only in this instance, the last spectacular and bold colorful plant that rises during the fall season.
For a real treat, visit Asheville's Arboretum. The magnificent color scheme of mums is laid out like a quilt, spread across the landscape and appears as if the queen herself ordered a royal showing of this magnificent plant which boasts colors of yellows, pinks, purples, orange, white, bronze and red.
Grown from cuttings, most mums are happy with sunshine and in pots. Just about everyone buys mums because of the colors and the display effect. The varieties are numerous as are the botanical names. Some of the blooms are shaped like daisies and tiny buttons, while others are huge spider-like strings of fiery proportions. Flowers can range from half an inch to eight inches wide and mums offer low growth or five foot height.
Mums have become the third best-selling cut flower, after roses and carnations, and third in potted plant sales after poinsettias and orchids.
Having a love affair with a flower is something all of us will experience, eventually. So if you want mums to become lasting through winter they need to be in the ground six weeks before a heavy frost to establish strong roots. Plant mums in full sun and well drained soil in a protected spot next to a wall of in a corner and mulch them well. Don't plant your mums near floodlights as that could alter the blooming period. And divide them every few years as you would other perennials. If you keep planting in succession, your plants will bloom at different times.
One year I kept my mums through the winter season and into the next fall without really dedicating my time to caring for them. The robust plants thrived quite well.
The following year I had hoped they would just repeat the growth on their own terms, but they did not. This proved to me that no matter what type of perennial you have growing in the garden, don't take it for granted. All plants need TLC.
Tips for December
- Make sure spring bulbs are planted before the ground becomes too hard and cold.
- Clean grasses from fallen pine needles and stack the needles around shrubs that thrive on acidic requirements.
- Plan for the spring garden, reading newsletters and decide to plant something new this season.
- Make sure all tools are well-cleaned before storing.
- Get rid of dead, diseased and damaged plants, shrubs and trees and clean mulch to avoid any pathogens.
- Add some color to the winter garden with pansies, violas, and violettes.
- Plant a Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) to view beautiful berries during the winter months.
- Begin to collect and store seeds for the following season.
- Make sure the amaryllis, paperwhites and hyacinth are planted for holiday bloom.
Contact Raleigh freelance writer Anita Stone at email@example.com.
More like this story