Chrysanthemums come into their own just as the rest of the garden is beginning to droop at the end of summer. Affectionately known as mums the rich colors of Chrysanthemums ignite the fall garden with a blaze of color a last hurrah just before winter sets in with the first killing frost. They are the avid gardeners perfect solution for the fall garden blues. The colors range from cream and lemony yellows to rich wines and burgundies, from pinks and lavenders to reds and bronzes. Mums can be grown in your garden or purchased already blooming from your local nursery to add to the landscaping design where annual flowers are dying back or getting too leggy.
Bare looking spots where weeds or dying flowers have been pulled burst into new life and color with the addition of pots of mums (left in the pots to be taken indoors later in the season) or garden mums transplanted directly into the ground. Understand that garden mums are meant to be planted in the garden while pot mums are intended to be left in the pots and can be taken inside. Mums can be grouped for stunning fall color statements near entryways, clustered by the gate posts for a lively welcome, or line the pathways to house or garden to entice the visitor on into the visual feast. You can choose a monochromatic palate or a kaleidoscope of colors in complimentary or contrasting hues in a true crayon box mix as your taste and garden design dictate. When looking for those rich autumn colors consider 'Buckeye' a rich wine red colored mum with a yellow center, and 'Tanaga' a bronzy gold that rivals a pumpkin for the color that we most associate with fall.
It is very difficult to maintain a sense of moderation when shopping for mums because they come in so many styles and colors. Gardeners will find the shapes of anemone, quilled, spider, button, pom-pom, incurved, daisy, and many others a delight to the senses. The Chinese and Japanese cultures both prize Chrysanthemums and they have been an important part of legend and myth in those countries since around 500 B.C. Chinese royalty once thought mums were so wonderful their beauty was to precious to share with commoners and so they did not allow the peasants to have them. In Japan the mum is a symbol for longevity and is included on the imperial coat of arms. But the royals are not the only folks to love the richness and beauty of Chrysanthemums and these days any one can grow and enjoy them.
They thrive through out the United States and though there are important considerations for people in the hot dry areas of the country such as Texas, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Eastern Oregon and Washington they can choose heat resistant mum varieties such as 'Legend', 'Anna', 'Allure' or 'Yellow Triumph'. Or they can place them in a situation where they have light partial shade in the hottest part of the day and make sure they have plenty of water. Mums do not mind being transplanted so as autumn approaches go to your local garden center and indulge your senses. When you bring your prizes home dig a hole in full sun (mums like at least 6 hours of full sun) fill with rich compost, water well. Of course you must make sure they have good drainage as they do not like soggy roots.
All you need for a successful Chrysanthemum garden is a shovel or trowel, and your fingers for pinching older flowers and pinching back shoots to create a more bushy plant. Combine with your other fall foliage and flowers for stunning effect and place little items of garden statuary among the mums for the surprise and delight of visitors to your garden. A stone frog peeking out from under the riot of colorful blooms takes on life and interest. A whimsical garden fairy or a stone maiden with a water jar is right at home. Bird baths draw those lively creatures to the garden to add vibrancy to the air as well as to the garden itself.
For an update on the latest varieties or a refresher on heritage varieties join other Chrysanthemum enthusiasts at one of the annual shows or festivals dedicated to this wonderful flower:
• In the mid-west there is the Annual Chrysanthemum Festival in Indianapolis at the Garfield Park Conservatory where they have special events and a mum sale. Held in September.
• The Annual Barberton Mum Fest is held in Barberton, Ohio just 7 miles south of Akron celebrating Chrysanthemums in 47 beds containing more than 16,000 beautiful blooms. Held in September
• Go north to the Ontario Mums and Sugarplums show in Hamilton, Ontario. Held in November.
• The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens have and Annual Chrysanthemum Show with antique varieties from types seen a century ago. Held in November.
• South to Florida for the Annual Mum Festival at Cypress Gardens Florida with more that 3 million (yes million) mums. Held in November.
Give mums center stage and they will reward you with a stunning display of color and texture. In warm and temperate climates leave them in the ground over the winter without cutting the stems, simply mulch in at least 6 inches of light loose mulching material to protect the shallow roots from freezing and pinch back new growth in the spring to encourage shrubby growth. Enjoy continuing displays for years.