Magnificent Mums

Perk up your fall garden with big bold bursts of colorful chrysanthemums. First grown as flowering herbs by the Chinese as early as the 15th century B.C., chrysanthemums were believed to contain the power of life. The ancients would see little resemblance between their small, yellow, daisy-like flowers and the blooms of today. Hybridizers have designed an incredible array of sizes, colors and forms, from huge corsage-sized mums to button-sized, all in dazzling colors.

Much like the new fall fashions, each year plant breeders rollout the newest line of exciting chrysanthemums for gardeners to try. While potted mums in traditional fall colors of bronze, red and orange may be more familiar, why not spice up your garden's wardrobe with some chic new varieties?

MumsAlthough the flower of the chrysanthemum looks like a single bloom, it's actually made up of hundreds of flowers called florets. One of the most amazing transformations in new varieties of mums is the evolving style of the florets. Currently there are 13 types of bloom forms, including pompon, decorative, single, semi-double, anemone, quill, spider and spoon. Each expresses its own personality and adds a different look to your garden's design. When creating an informal, country style garden, I like to use the casual anemone, quill and spider forms.

Along with these flower shapes, hybridizers have developed a wide range of colors. You can find mums in various shades of pink, purple, red, yellow, bronze, orange and white. Some varieties have different colors between the florets; others are bi-colored on the face and reversed side.

With choices like these, you'll want to keep your mums blooming for as long as possible. One thing you should know about mums is that, depending on the variety, they flower at different times, from early to late fall. By selecting a combination of early, mid- and late-season bloomers, you can enjoy months of colorful displays.

Potted or Planted?
Some gardeners prefer to plant chrysanthemums in flowerbeds in the spring and grow them as perennials. As they develop, their summer foliage is bright green and grows quietly, letting summer flowers take center stage. Then, in autumn, the buds pop open in glorious hues and add their magic to fall borders. Other gardeners, especially those with smaller spaces, prefer to buy potted plants in late summer and drop them into borders just before they flower. Either way, their bright color and round, soft flower heads are a nice contrast in texture and shape to sharp-bladed ornamental grasses and tall spiky blooms like salvia.

Container Designs
Rustic BasketA rustic twig planter makes the perfect accent to a porch or entrance and it,s as easy as one, two, three. First, select a large basket or container that fits your garden's style. Then pick up a large potted mum along with an ornamental pepper, some small pumpkins and a frilly ornamental kale. Simply arrange everything is the container and, presto, you?ve created a cheery welcome for your home.

Mums in UrnThis elegant arrangement is perfect for when you have more time and want to create something dramatic. To put together this sensational combination of seasonal color, I followed my 3-shape rule, using the 3 basic flower forms: tall and spiky, round and full and cascading plants. For the tall form try an upright coleus. To fill in the center, add an ornamental kale and a rose-pink chrysanthemum. Hakone grass 'Aureola' and petunias cascade down the front.

 

Good to Know

How to Choose and Care for Mums:

  • Select disease-free plants with healthy, green foliage.
  • To extend bloom time, pick plants with tight buds rather than opened flowers. More buds mean more flowers.
  • To identify flower color and form, check the plant tag or ask nursery staff.
  • Keep mums well watered. Potted mums dry out quickly and, if under watered, produce malformed flowers. For borders, water frequently the first 2 weeks until established.

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