September 17, 2012

Four Chrysanthemum Facts You Need to Know

OLD FASHIONED EXHIBITION MUMS HAVE DISAPPEARED FROM THE AMERICAN GARDENERS LEXICON, BUT I AM ON A SECRET MISSION TO REINTRODUCE THIS PLANT WHICH IS ALMOST LOST IN CULTURE.
ON MY BACK PORCH, EVERY AUTUMN BRINGS BOWLS OF HUGE INCURVE POM POMS, FANCY JAPANESE VARIETIES OF SPIDER MUMS AND ODD COLLECTIBLES SUCH AS ANEMONE POMS.


Chrysanthemum season is nearly here, but aside from those hormone drenched, growth-retardant treated perfect mounds that we see at every garden center, our current love/hate relationship with this autumnal standby goes much further back in horticultural history than this current mumification of North America - the Chrysanthemum may very will be the most cultivate flower on our planet, yet few of us ever see the sheer beauty this genus can produce. To truly appreciate the Chrysanthemum, we must first look backwards more than 3000 years ago, for in China and Japan hundreds of varieties were grown to perfection for autumnal celebrations and winter holidays.




JAPANESE SPIDER MUMS, WHEN PROPERLY GROWN TO 6 FOOT TALL SINGLE STEMS AND DISBUDDED TO A SINGLE BUT, CAN PRODUCE THE MOST AMAZING FLOWERS IN OCTOBER- THIS ONE THAT I GREW A FEW YEARS AGO HAD A FLOWER MORE THAN 1 FOOT IN DIAMETER,




1. Did the name Chrysanthemum really change recently?  


Yes.  No*. see end of paragraph for revision.

We really should not be calling these plants Chrysanthemums anymore. If you really want to show off,  Chrysanthemum is incorrect thanks to taxonomists who reorganized the genus, but I don't ever expect the retail growers to ever change their signs in much the same way that any bicolor corn will forever be 'Sugar and Butter'.  Scientists recently have moved many of the species which we once clumped together under the genus Chrysanthemum into a multitude of  genera, leaving only two species in the genus of Chrysanthemum - two annual daisy forms in fact.  Our familiar Hardy Mum plant which we all visualize as a 'Mum' as well as all of the florist varieties, is now known as Dendranthemum.

* Apparently, the name Chrysanthemum is still being used. Thanks to a blog reader who shared his thoughts, I researched this a little bit more, and here is what I found:  Both Chrysanthemum and Dendranthema are still valid, but Dendranthema is now a subsection within the genus Chrysanthemum. ( Often called Chrysanths). The name I learned to use back in college, Chrysanthemum x morifolium is still sometimes used once again, but finding any literature on this has been challenging without access to JSTOR or an botanical university library - I welcome any expert to share their knowledge! The last update that I could find was  from the taxonomy journal TAXON in 1998, a citation with a proposal to conserve the name Chrysanthemum (44:439-441.).


Web searched find anecdotal reference for a change back occurring in 1999, but I could find no factual information. I did find this list which may help the geekier of us, to find where other members in the genus netted out. Oh, thank God I never became a taxonomist! I think that they must be the lawyers of the plant world.

Other changes in the family are here:

Arctanthemum (arctic chrysanthemum, 1 species) - C. arcticum
Argyranthemum (marguerites and Paris daisies, 23 species) - C. anethifoliumC. foeniculaceumC. frutescens
Chrysanthemum (florists’ mums, ca. 40 species) - C. xgrandiflorumC. indicumC. japonicum
Glebionis (corn chrysanthemums and crown daisies, 3 species) - C. segetumC. coronarium
Heteranthemis (sticky ox-eye daisy, 1 species) - C. viscidehirtum
Ismelia (tricolor chrysanthemum, 1 species) - C. carinatum = C. tricolor
Leucanthemella (high-daisy, giant-daisy, 2 species) - C. serotinum
Leucanthemopsis (alpine marguerites, 6 species) - C. alpinumC. pallidum
Leucanthemum (ox-eye daisy and Shasta daisies, ca. 26 species) - C. leucanthemumC. maximumC. lacustreC. xsuperbum
Rhodanthemum (Moroccan daisies, 12 species) - C. hosmarienseC. gayanumC. atlanticum). 



2. Are my newly potted 'hardy mums' really hardy? 


Sorry, they are not really 'hardy'. The Mums that we see in garden centers are NOT reliably hardy in most North American gardens, so forget what you read in books or what the sales associate tells you, it's just the sad truth. These are varieties designed to be disposable.  I know, I know - technically, they are considered to be a 'hardy perennial' in many gardening books, but the modern varieties used to commercially produce the common mum plant that we see sold as 'Hardy Mums' are not truly bred to be hardy.

I'm not saying that some will survive, but proceed and invest carefully, as winter hardyness varies between the many varieties sold. Breeders select varieties for color and uniformity more than they do for hardiness. So thanks carefully before investing in that $16.00 giant perfectly grown mound. It may be best to consider the purchase a disposable one.

3. Why don't we ever see Spider mums and Football Mums in our gardens?


These varieties, along with many other beautiful forms are all known as exhibition mums, not only are they late bloomers - often flowering in late October and November, they are also more demanding to grow - requiring often daily care, staking, disbuding, trimming to only one or 3 stems,  and heavy feeding. Growing exhibition mums is quickly becoming a lost craft, but as many of you already know, it is one which I am fervently trying to reintroduce. Soon you will all see my exhibition mum collection, as it is one of my 2012 Projects, but they are not ready yet - but here are a few photos to show you where I am with them.




Chrysanthemum 'Gethsemane Moonlight' is a truly hardy mum, which is more reliable and truly perennial in the border. Look for other named varieties in white, peach and pink.

4. There are some very nice truly Hardy mums - but you had better like daisy-shaped flowers. 


It's true, some truly perennial mums exist, but don't expect them to be as dense and nice as the tight buns seen at retail right now, these are more loosely growing, more like daisy's than what you might imagine a chrysanthemum to look like in your mind, but these varieties spread slowly, and will quickly become a share-a-long plant. Look for Chrysanthemum 'Snow Dome', or Chrysanthemum 'Gethsemane Moonlight'. both from Plant Delights Nursery.


My Mum Project Update

My Exhibition mums arrived as cuttings in may, and were quickly potted up. In June more cuttings were taken, at on the Fourth of July, another set. After the Fourth, no more stopping occured, and plants were allowed to product only three stems per plant. 


Exhibition Cuttings arrived earlier this year, in May, which gave me some time to take two or even in some cases, three sets of cuttings, essentially tripling my collection. These will mature into tall 6-7 foot tall exhibition mums by late October, when the pots, complete with 6 foot tall bamboo stakes, will be relocated back into the greenhouse for blooming in late Autumn. This is a method used by growers for hundreds of years in the US and European estates where the Chrysanthemum was often the first floral show in an estate conservatory, but of course, the Japanese and the Chinese had more elaborate methods which they perfected over 3000 years.

Growing mums like this time consuming, and impractical, but I am fascinated with heritage methods - those that come from another time when wood and glass stove houses kept rare orchids and giant palms. Exhibition mums are not for the home grower, but I am sharing with you the process, since I think it is interesting, and it is something you can try, if you have a cold porch or sunroom where you can bring the pots in for their display period. 

Exhibition chrysanthemum culture is a long, tedious process, hearkening back the 1800's. when any New England Estate with a greenhouse complex, would have been practicing.  Even in Europe, and particularly in England, mums would be planted out into staked rows in a bed behind the greenhouse complex, and carefully maintained until frost arrived. They then would be carefully dug and repotted, and brought into the cold glass house for final prep and they display which would soon follow.

It's a method and culture sore rarely seen today, that one may only experience it at some of the worlds leading botanic gardens.  An exhibition of tall, trained and staked mums in a conservatory or courtyard is a relic from another time, but I am dedicated to continue this art as long as I can in my own home greenhouse.


MY EXHIBITION MUM CUTTINGS ARE NOW MATURING, AND THEY ARE NEARLY AS TALL AS I AM. FLOWER BUDS ARE BEGINNING TO FORM, BUT ALL SIDE SHOOTS MUST BE REMOVED, AS WELL AS THE TINY BUDS, LEAVING ONLY ONE FLOWER BUD PER STEM.


NO FLOWER PRODUCING STEM IS ALLOWED TO MATURE, SO DAILY NIPPING AND SNIPPING IS REQUIRED. IT IS BEST TO REMOVE STEMS BEFORE THEY GET TOO LARGE.

ONCE ALL SIDE FLOWER BUDS ARE REMOVED, THE CAREFUL TASK OF REMOVING ALL BUT ONE SINGLE CROWN BUD REMAINS. TIMING IS EVERYTHING HERE, FOR ONE MUST REMOVE BUDS WHEN THEY ARE STILL EASY TO ROLL-OUT WITHOUT MUCH DAMAGE, BUT NOT TOO SOON WHICH MIGHT DRAIN ENERGY OR DAMAGE THE ONE REMAINING BUD. THIS REMAINING CROWN BUD WILL NOW GROW INTO A GIANT, PERFECT EXHIBITION MUM, BE IT A SPIDER, FOOTBALL, INCURVE OR RECURVE TYPE.


MY 'GROWING WITH PLANTS' EXHIBITION MUM PROJECT - STILL GROWING, BUT SOON TO BE RELOCATED INTO THE GREENHOUSE ONCE FROST THREATENS. FLOWERING WON'T OCCUR UNTIL LATE OCTOBER OR NOVEMBER.


14 comments :

  1. Anonymous1:28 AM

    what size container are they growing in to get to 6ft? soil? fertilizer?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just not crazy about mums, they look like fake flowers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It was interesting to learn a bit more about mums. I love the fancy Exhibition ones and wish they were a little easier to grow.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Two more facts you need to know: Mums got their name changed BACK. So they're Chrysanthemum again. (Thanks taxonomists... make up your mind already) And, there is a whole range of spectacular, fully winter hardy, exhibition and football-type mums available from Faribault Growers: http://www.fgimn.com/retail.php
    I'm kind of in love with them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. hopflower11:36 AM

    Absolutely, Matt. It is imperative that we keep the old methods alive so we can pass them on to other plant enthusiasts. Those mums will be stunning. You must take pictures for us when they are in full flower. Do you allow three stems per plant? I remember my mum growing the large "football" mums in our garden; rows of bronze, yellow, white, and mauve flowers were a reminder that autumn had arrived!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very informative post - I fully support to reintroduce the more exciting forms of Chrysanthemums - or Dendrathemums - to the general gardening public. Even as cut flowers they have become so rare! If one is to believe my family's photo albums, in the Germany of the 1950s and 60s the giant football types where the stars of every floral center piece. There is one particularly hilarious - at least to me - shot from the early sixties of my grandmother and great-aunt standing next to a bouquet of chrysanthemum flowers larger than their voluminously permed heads.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous7:00 PM

    just curious, who is your official authority on name changes?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous7:03 PM

    just curious, who/what is your official source is for name changes?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks Jason - but, they are real! I know what you mean though - I feel the same way about Anthurium and hardy mums, but I think that the appeal for me goes deeper to a more emotional place - part nostalgia in the scent, and in the cultural practices required.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Geez Joe, I am off my game, aren't I! Well, I am relieved and yet you now have me on a mission to catch up on my poor and failing taxon skills! Thanks for enlightening us! I am also so please to discover Fairbault Growers through you!! I ordered mine from King.s mums.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hopflower - what special memories, I can only imagine what your gardens must have been like, especially how grand those mums must have looked through the eyes of a child! I remember my mom's zinnias when they were as tall as I was - of course, I was 3 years old!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Nice post Matt. I love and miss these old fashioned mums.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What kinds of temperatures do you think they can take without flower damage? What zone do you think they would be hardy in reliably? How are they with heat? Most of the so called perennial-mums do well here in Central Texas (8b-ish), but I've longed for some more variety.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Matt,

    I found your blog yesterday night while surfing the net in search of interesting inspiration for the family nursery in Italy. I'm still surfing your blog now, almost 20 hours later. I love it.

    This post especially as I am in my own mission to change the Italian perspective towards this beautiful autumn flower. It will be a hard one: Chrysanthemum is well known in Italy but very "commercial" as it is "the traditional flower" people used on Allsaints day to bring to their beloved ones at the graveyard. Yes. This second part makes the thing even more tricky as people don't like to have plants of "the deads" at home (the Italian tradition of boxwood hedges is under threaten as many customers relate it to graveyards. Unbelievable). But I love good fight! Thanks for sharing this post.

    Kind regards

    Elena

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Most Popular Posts