November 10, 2012

Smith College Chrysanthemum Show

Japanese Spider mums and recurved formals, each trained in the classic Japanese form - disbudded to a single bloom received
much attention at the annual Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Smith College.

 The annual Fall Chrysanthemum Show at the Botanic Garden of Smith College traditionally opens on the first Saturday in November in the 100 year old Lyman Plant house conservatory, set in on the iconic campus designed by the firm of Frederic Law Olmsted. Smith College, located in Northampton, MA hosts two major floral events annually, the Spring Bulb Show in March and this, the Autumn Chrysanthemum show. Horticulture students display some chrysanthemum varieties which they must breed for a class on hybridizing, as many exhibition mums are on display, in much the same way nineteenth century conservatories in America might have displayed mums, showing traditional Japanese and Chinese training methods.

The whole show is very charming,  of course the vintage conservatory, the quaint decorations, the naive thematic elements ( this show had a butterfly theme with home made sculptures of people in kimono's catching butterflies with nets), and the collection itself - 12,000 square feet containing 1500 taxa, a collection of plants which includes succulents ferns, tropicals, subtropicals, and epiphytes - a woman at the information desk was quite enthusiastic about a 'baby pineapple' which she insisted made a point of visiting and mentioning.

Visitors of all ages enjoyed the fragrance and color on this cold, November day. There is nothing like a greenhouse full of flowers when it is cold outside.

The Lyman Conservatory viewed from the upper campus at Smith college.

Joe and Jess discuss how they might have trained the cascade style mums. They require constant care, and are not easy grow to perfection. These were trained onto chicken wire, which any Japanese gardner would turn their nose up at, but it is something we may try next year as the traditional method is difficult requiring single canes of bamboo. Our guess is that these were trained onto a flat, horizontal or angled plane of wire, tied to it, and then placed in position once the buds were forming.

This anemone form was particularly striking. Now if I could only find a source for it.

Large single spider forms are alway popular with visitors. Some have blossoms nearly a foot wide.

A display of single stem Spider Mums disbudded to a single flower which allows all the energy to focus on forming one giant blossom so large, it needs a strong bamboo pole.

Displays were curated by color and form, much like the spring bulb show. 

This striking bicolor had a tag which read 'Yodo Gimi'

A student bred selection with slender petals. One greenhouse had student hybrids each with a numbered tag. Visitors could vote for their most popular.

This student variety attracted many honey bees as it was very fragrant. Bees entered the greenhouse through the roof vents, but some become trapped once the sun sets. 

This brilliant yellow spoon variety provided the trapped bees with some after-hours activity. I mean, it's not like they will be bored locked in a conservatory like this.

A very nice pink anemone form.

Japanese cascading varieties covered an entire wall. Trained on chicken wire, a more traditional method would be to train each of these weak stems to a horizontal cane, and then untie them to cascade naturally. Still, this created a lovely hedge-like effect.


  1. I'm voting for that pink anemone form!

  2. I love the Rembrandtian tints of autumnal mums. I understand that in England at Chrysanthemum shows they often begin preparations the night before and spend the whole night combing the petals just so! I have observed that growing a mum really really well is harder than one would think. I'd love to see such a show in the "chlorophyll"...Thanks for giving us a taste.


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