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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Maligned Mums

A family member recently sent me an email note with a couple of gardening questions.

She attached some pictures of her porch and noted that "even though you don't like mums, I think they make my porch more inviting".

Uh-oh. Did I say I didn't like mums? Actually, what I think I said was that I was kind of bored with mums (Chrysanthemums) and so I don't go out and buy big pots of them in the fall as much as I used to.

I'm quite tempted to do so, though, whenever I visit a garden center in the fall and see all those rows and rows of mums.

Here's the porch without mums.

Yes, that is a bit plain.

Here's the porch with the mums.I think the mums do make this a more inviting porch, don't you?

Honestly, I really don't mind mums and I'd like to apologize to the mum growers if I maligned mums or inadvertently said anything that caused anyone I know to hestitate to buy any mums.

I have some mums myself, as shown on my bloom day post yesterday. I bought them six or seven years ago from someone at work who's daughter was selling them for a school fundraiser. (Whenever someone's kid is selling anything plant related, they seem to come right to me... why is that?)

As soon as I got them, I planted them in a little spot by the front door and left them alone.

Now they just come up each year and sort of fill in their little spot. I don't eagerly await their bloom, like I do some flowers I have, but I also don't try to rip them out and hope they don't bloom.

They are just there, adding a spot of color in the fall.

I would like to officially go on record as saying that I don't mind mums, they are a nice flower to add a kick of color in the fall. It's perfectly acceptable to buy a few containers of them to set about for a spot of color and quite understandable why people do that.

However, if you want to have them come back year after year, here's what works for me...

Get them out of those pots and in the ground as soon as possible. In fact, you don't have to wait until fall to buy mums. If you can find them in the spring, you should buy them then and plant them out. If you do plant them out in the fall, be sure to keep them well watered, like you would any other recently planted flower.

Don't cut the foliage back in the fall after they are done blooming. Leave them alone for the winter and then cut them back in early spring when you start to see a little green at the base of the plant.

Give them a little extra mulch after the ground freezes to keep them from heaving up out of the ground. That's usually what kills mums around here. They get "unplanted" as the ground goes through freezing and thawing cycles and then they dry out and die.

As we do with other late flowering perennials like asters, cut them back once in early summer to encourage more lateral branching and more flower bud formation. In my garden, I do this around Memorial Day.

If you also like mums but think they are a bit too common and overused, you can try to use their new name, Dendranthema. Impress your friends by telling them about these 'new flowers' you found that come in all different colors... yellow, pink, purple, lavendar, and red and everything in between except blue. You can tell them that they are relatively disease free and don't require a lot of attention.

People will then think you've got some fancy new flowers and they'll want to get some, too, because some people are like that. They have to have anything new.

As for me, I'm going to keep calling them mums, but I'm going to be more careful about what I say about them. Let the record show that I think they are a perfectly good fall flowering perennial with the added versatility of being a good container plant as well! Long live the mums!

******

Bloom Day Update: Thank you to everyone who posted for bloom day! I haven't been around to visit all of the blogs, yet, but I will do so in the next couple of days. It's nice to see so many blooms in the fall!

Survey Update: I'll post results from my completely unscientific, just for fun, survey in the next few days. If you haven't completed the survey, feel free to add your two cents in!

14 comments:

Sylvia (England) said...

Carol, I think both pictures are inviting but one looks cool and summery and the other shouts Autumn. The large pots of flowering Chrysanthemum are appearing in our shops in the last few years. Prior to that they were usually the very large flowered varieties grown in greenhouses!

I know what you mean about names - I can't get used to calling Chrysanthemums, Mums! Tried "Mums" on my husband this morning and he didn't know what I meant.

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

Gail said...

Carol, Good morning...I like chrysanthe'mums' but the big pots are too moundy for me...it's true, they do add a kick of color to a garden and a few pots on the porch might be nice!

Gail

garden girl said...

Hi Carol, I've always enjoyed colorful mums, and would like to add some nice hardy ones to my garden. I've had them in previous gardens and they came back most years. I'd stick May's pinched stems into the soil around the garden and found they rooted very easily, and usually bloomed the first year. I usually pinched mine a second time in July to delay the bloom and keep them nice and compact.

Rose said...

Carol, I'm glad to know you don't dislike mums. I have found in the fall I just can't resist buying several colorful Dendranthema to brighten up dead spots in my garden:)I must admit in the past they usually wound up on the compost heap in late November, but I did manage to salvage one last year which is what I showed on my bloom day post. When it came up this spring I was pleasantly surprised. I did pinch it back in July, so it's blooming now at just the right time!

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Carol,

I don't like the name 'mums' but at least it lets us avoid using either the outdated Chrysanthemum or the current Dendranthema, which sounds like the title of a horror movie.
Chrydenthemum! That's more fun!

Your daisy-shaped mums are my favorites, especially in rusts, dark purples and deep burgundies for autumn. But they don't seem to live over for me, while the cushion mums spread and survive with little care, blooming here in Austin once in mid-spring and after being cut back severely, grow up to flower again in autumn.

There's a basket of rust-colored cushion mums on the veranda right now.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Shady Gardener said...

I haven't purchased 'mums' for a long time... probably because there are so many other things I want to find first! My husband used to buy a lovely mum for me every Spring (our April anniversary), but they, once planted, rarely get to bloom in the fall... as they get nipped by frost! I know there are some lovely varieties out there. I've enjoyed seeing the ones that look like daisies! :-) And You have some beautiful raspberry colored ones!

Mary said...

So that's why my Mums in MD and DE never came back. My husband cut them down to the ground in the fall - no mulching - then freeze. I'm having better luck here in NC with the few I have. I'm not a mum fanatic either but they sure do add life to a dull front porch.

perennialgardener said...

Great tips on how to keep Mums coming back year after year. I prefer the daisy shaped ones myself vs the pom-pom. They do add some color at this time a year when some things are long since spent.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I had to laugh about your suggestion for calling them "Dendrathemas" & trying to pass them off as new plants. Sorry if I confused your comments about Mums with those of EAL. She & I are the Mum haters. (Ok, I don't hate the daisy-shaped ones.)

Sheila said...

Carol, I agree, the cupcake shaped pots of mums are a little too... contrived for me. But I have discovered that planted in the ground and left to sprawl (because I forget to pinch them throughout their growing season) they take on a relaxed appearance and add a little color to the fall garden beds.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I think that splash of color in the second picture really does make the porch more inviting. It screams 'Lets Party'. Or is that my TGIF inner self shouting??

joey said...

Mums are us ... one way or another! I treat mums like annuals and don't allow their future get to me ... wondering? If I need color (cost at local farmer's market not too steep), they are wonderful and make a statement ... simple.

jodi said...

I have always liked mums, except for certain colours ; the bright yellow ones set my teeth on edge, although I have other related plants of similar flower colours. Go figure.
What I like about these plants is their compact, tidy shape; it's SO very different from the chaotic profusion of the rest of my garden, that they're sort of soothing in a curious way. I tend towards the bronzes, the fruit punch colours, and the deep wine ones.

Anna said...

Your home is very attractive. I agree with Silvia. Both pictures look inviting.