Time for this years' chrysanthemum photos, as clearly, I have not had the time to write a proper post given an unusually busy fall for me. If you missed my Martha Stewart Living magazine feature this November, I have provided a link here to the on-line version. I felt that I should at least share some of this years mums, since I did spend so much time training them throughout the summer, and because no one gets to see them if they just stay in my greenhouse all fall and winter! (me, included - since I am a bit overwhelmed with a kitchen remodel and other responsibilities for a bit.).
I obviously have not been posting as frequently lately, and I apologize to you if you have been sitting patiently by your computer waiting for a post (right!). Mostly, I have been consumed with a remodeling project at home - one which began as a kitchen tweak, but has grown into basically a 'half-of-a-house' remodel. I need to accept that it won't be complete by Christmas and just move forward, but for now, I am surrounded by plaster dust, 100 year old horsehair plaster dust, and brand new plaster dust.
Not to mention wires and lath hanging from he ceiling, holes in the floor and everything that comes with a remodel. If you've ever survived one in an old house, you know what I am dealing with. I could reeeeally use some decompression time in the greenhouse right now as well, but my day job as an elf for Santa also gets a little hectic this time of year, not to mention other governance dates with a couple of board positions, committees, plant society positions and everything that comes with end-of-year campaigns. I think I really need to take some time for myself this Holiday season, but until then, I do owe you all a post, even if it is brief.
The chrysanthemums this season in the greenhouse at home are spectacular. They are so fragrant too, which surprised me, as I am trying a few new varieties, as well as many old ones. Again, these are not common garden mums, but rather, conservatory chrysanthemums - we really don't know what to call them, as they are a somewhat endangered type of non-commercial, non-hardy chrysanthemum which a hundred years ago or so, was so popular as a fall and winter flower, but today, have evolved into what most of us know as 'pot-mums' or 'hardy cushion mums'. They are neither, but rather chrysanthemums which are either trained to single stems to increase their bloom size or grown and disbanded to perfection.
Immensely popular and culturally significant in Asia, as well as in Mexico where they still play an important part in Day of the Dead celebrations, in the rest of the world, these conservatory plants of the late short-day seasons, have virtually been forgotten. And it's no wonder, since home greenhouses are not common by any means, and estates with conservatories where displays could be raised and set up, are just about exitinct as well. So exhibition chrysanthemums or Japanese chrysanthemums will probably always remain a novelty - something to be viewed on rare occasions at the few botanical gardens who may bother to raise them, or in Asia (China, Korea and Japan) where they have more importance.
|The chrysanthemums in this print by Charles Courtney Curran shows how important chrysanthemums once were in turn of the century conservatory displays. I like how he captured the correct light and colors as are in my greenhouse in late November.|
Now, only a handful of us bother to raise them. Maybe it's just out of nostalgia, or perhaps because of their rarity, or their history - which dates back hundreds of years to the 14 century (as the chrysanthemum was the first plant to be raised as a potted plant by the Chinese) - there is just something captivating about a plant which has fascinated mankind for so long, and it seems tragic that so few today understand or appreciate their cultural DNA.
Over commercialized and hybridized into dwarft, meaningless potted plants at hospital gift shops, or a cheap, sterile cut flowers at the supermarket, - even as carefully timed and growth retarded mounds of mums as standard fall decor at farm stands, the Chrysanthemum seems to have lost its connection with its audience, which is a shame, yet perhaps just a reality of modern life (no home greenhouses and conservatories, little interest or knowledge on how to raise them, and yes - only one source on where to find them commercially in the US - Kings Mums.
|This anemone form is variety called 'Daybreak'.|
|Perhaps the most impressive are the varieties from Great Britain, those bred by a well know chrysanthemum enthusiast - Ivor Mace. This one is one from his collection - 'Salmon Harry Gee', a variety rarely seen in North America.|
I will say that you could try raising these plants, but be forewarned that to achieve results like this, you should make the effort to at least disband, pinch and train a bit based on whatever of the 13 classes or different type of mum you buy, to at least, try to get a result that meets why one selected the variety in the first place.
One could raise, let's say an 'formal incurve' or a spider mum from a cutting purchased at Kings and set out into the garden or in a large container in late May, and train the plant minimally (pinching every few weeks, and keeping the plant well staked and fertilized), and then dig it up just before frost and bring it onto an unheated porch or deck with protection, and have amazing flowers by Halloween - that is possible, and something I would encourage many of you to try.
Step-by-step directions are something I should probably prepare for this, right?
|'Gillette'' is a large, white mums - this one has a little decay on it - too damp in my greenhouse and I didn't keep the vents open this autumn.|
|Cascade style chrysanthemums have weaker stems, which can be strategically trained through careful pinching techniques to a shape not unlike a waterfall. This variety, 'Bronze Fleece' is a particularly nice one for cascades, and it is fragrant too!|
|'George Couchman' trained into a pyramid form, once very popular in Victorian conservatory displays. These are the blooms that one would associate with the Holiday season at one time.|
|Training chrysanthemums into bonsai is also popular with enthusiasts in Japan. This was my first attempt at training a grove, using the variety 'Kotoi No Kaori'. Not perfect, but not bad I think as a first attempt.|
En masse in the greenhouse, these mums look the best. Somehow, all of the odd colors work which may seem impossible when one looks at a catalog where pink, magenta, yellow, gold and brown are all shown side-by-side, but experiencing a display in a greenhouse with the low angle of autumn sunlight, somehow it all seems 'right'. Even to a color geek like me.
|The effect as the sun began to set was insanely beautiful, and I felt bad that no one could enjoy it except us.|
I added some vintage Japanese lanterns to the greenhouse this year (not real Japanese cultural ones, but rather mid-century interpretations of Japanese-style generic Asian paper lanterns - the sort exported to the West for party decorations in the 50's, and probably for Chinese restaurants - crazy Americans! They are still pretty, in a naive way, but they remind me that I really do need to get some authentic Japanese lanterns into a collection (they are just too expensive for me right now!). So I will settle on kitsch as long as it is vintage.
|The cascade mums had tons of blooms. I am always impressed at how the colors blend well together - pink, gold, brown and yellow never looked so in-season.|
|Spoon-shaped mums are beautiful. I trained this variety 'Maryl' into multiple sprays.|
Speaking of budgets - here are a few embarrassing pics of the kitchen remodel. Maybe I should do a post on this? Before and after? How we did the entire project for less than 10k?
|The frame for a new book case for cook books - I can't wait to get rid of the blue tile from the 1950's!|