One almost feels a little guilty and unappreciative regarding the relative ease and instant satisfaction we expect when stocking up on fall garden mums for decorating our fall landscape. It was not always so!
The history of the chrysanthemum takes us back to ancient times when the flower was introduced to Japan from China. So popular did the chrysanthemum become that the Japanese monarchy chose it for their emblem. Even the throne of the emperor is called the ‘Chrysanthemum Throne’. It was believed the chrysanthemum amongst other valued attributes held the secret to long life. These days Japan celebrates the chrysanthemum (AKA ‘kiku’) annually in numerous festivals where the flower itself takes centre stage in many different styles and art forms. It can take 11 months for each plant/display to be pruned and manipulated by experienced gardeners into beautiful sculptures. One broken branch (and mum branches are brittle!) can be devastating to the project. In North America we have been able to take advantage of many years of breeding. There is now a whole spectrum of colour and flower forms so the garden mum can be easily incorporated into any landscape design to give that much needed pop of colour when our annuals begin to fade.
We at Horlings Plants grow 25+ varieties of mums. Since the time you have your spring transplants arranged and planted to your satisfaction we have been busy planting mum cuttings, pinching and repinching, fertilizing and spacing these little green gems. Be warned… all mums are not equal! There are several advantages of buying your garden mum direct from the grower. As eluded to earlier, mum plants are brittle. Very little mishandling can easily break a branch so the less moving, loading and packaging, the better chance the mum retains its rounded shape. Because we grow our potted mums in the great outdoors as opposed to a greenhouse environment, each plant receives plenty of space to grow to its full potential. The mums then have greater resistance to the wind and can withstand colder temperatures with the transition into the fall season.
There’s always the temptation to buy your mum with the blooms out in full glory. TIP: If you want your plant to perform into the late autumn make sure you’re careful to find one with lots of buds and few blooms (depending when you buy it of course). There are early, mid and late season varieties. I confess we do grow a few early varieties for those of you who may need to decorate for an early event or have a ‘black hole’ in your summer planter which needs some instant pick me up but most of our mums fall into the mid to late season categories. Each plant is colour labelled so you can buy with confidence if it is not showing colour. Every watering throughout the summer our mums are given a little fertilizer so by the time you purchase not much else needs to be done to it but enjoy and water when dry.
So this year when you think about revitalizing the colour in your garden with a fall garden mum remember that the chrysanthemum really is the crowning glory of your planter and is sure to raise your status from peasant to royalty!