This issue's garden topic - Fall mums

Chrysanthemum morifolium comes from the Greek.
Chrysos meaning gold, Anthemum meaning flower.
Morifolium, mulberry leaves. The parent to all mums orginally came from China and had golden daisy flowers. The Japanese even so revered this flower that it was used as a representative icon for the imperial household. In WWII the Imperial chrysanthemum was stamped on every Jpanese rifle to bring the Divinity of the Emporer into the hands of every soldier who served him. At the end of the war the peace treaty with the US specified that all such icons must be removed so that the rifle would no longer have spiritual ties to the Imperial house.

All of our modern hybrid Chrysanthemums come from this parent. When you stop and think about a lot of breeding has gone on in the last 150 years or so! The largest part of it by Laurie, Poesch, and Post in the 1920's. These three researchers established timing schedules for year 'round production that are still in use today.
Even the cut "football" mums and all of the florist potted varieties come from this parent.

Mums set buds according to a number of environmental factors but the single most impotatnt trigger is daylength. In our area days short enough to trigger mums into bud formation versus leaf formation occurs around July 10th. Many people ask me when to stop pinching mums back. The 4th of July is an easy date to remember :) Mum varieties are grouped by response time. What this means is how long it takes in weeks for that variety to show flower after the start of short days. Garden varieties are generally 6-10 week response, whereas florist varieties are often from 8-20 weeks. That pot mum that you got as a gift or to just put some color in the house is equally viable for the garden as garden varieties but may take so long to bloom that frost will come before the flowers open.

Caring for mums...

Mums prefer a rich organic soil. If you have hard clay ammending the soil with lots of compost will make mums happy campers indeed! They're nearly always hungry and will be plump and content with regular feedings as often as every other watering until they bloom and then about every 3rd or 4th watering.

Getting mums to return the second year..
Typicly what happens with modern hybrids is that they survive the winter but get killed off by early spring frost. The breeders haven't helped us gardeners much in that respect either. In their rush to perfect color, flower form, and plant habit they have neglected hardiness. They may also be protecting their market and insureing a constant flow of royalties as well. Nearly all varieties avaible for commercial production are patented and every grower on the planet who grows these varieties pays a royalty back to the breeder for every cutting stuck.
The market in the U.S. is dominated by Yoder.
In the last several years the Van Zanten hybrids have made their way to the U.S. from Belgium. Bred for the northern European market they may have a greater tolerance to our early spring frosts. I'm still waiting for hard data from the field on this :) There are some truly outstanding varieties in this group. "Temptress" is a purple spoon tipped daisy that sells out nearly as quick as it comes into bloom! "Jenny Wren" is proving to be a gorgeous Early red! Eat your heart out Yoder!

There are truly hardy varieties of mums available if you like daisy flowers. Chrysanthemum "Clara Curtis" and "Mary Stoker" have passed my killer test mound in full exposure with utter neglect for 8 years now. Both have recently been reassigned to the genus Dendranthemum. God knows why.. They are a closer representation of the parentage of the genus than the hybrids :)

We are currently between production phases on Mary Stoker but we do have some really nice Clara Curtis in the front nursery..

Whichever variety you may chose Mums are sure to please all who enjoy a burst of late summer and fall color from these true garden showoffs!

'til next time,

Happy gardening!


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