Mum’s the word

Don’t tell anyone but I am not a big fan of potted mums. For weeks now they’ve been popping up on doorsteps everywhere and plopped pot-and-all into every other foundation bed, and I can’t help yawning. They’re just so… municipal. Now, you know me – I’m all for whatever gets people buying plants and out in their gardens/yards, but mums? Really? There are so many other things that are more interesting – including …  mums.

Hardy Chrysanthemum – or Dendranthema or whatever the kids are calling them these days – are so much lovelier than the ones that are forced into bloom only to die from neglect or stress a few weeks later. Hardy mums have a looser more graceful form – extra loose if we forget to cut them back in June – and they live for practically ever and tend to be generous spreaders. Sheffield Pink is our grandmotherly favorite, spread along the edge under the dawn redwood hedge in the Display Garden and borrowed with something blue in the Rose Garden. I don’t know and haven’t been able to find the name of the sweet yellow and red one in the Rock Garden. Anyone recognize it?

It should be noted that some of the potted mums for sale are hardy mums in disguise. Neither Gail nor I remember planting the deep-pink mum in the North Garden and have credited a wedding decorator. (We toast the happy couple every fall.) Over the last few sunny days, it has been as covered with different species of bees, flies, wasps, etc as any aster. And that right there is reason enough to plant the hardy mums – they’re a great late meal for pollinators.

Potted mums have become part of people’s -non gardeners and gardeners alike – fall tradition but wouldn’t it be great if growers started forcing Cuphea micropetala instead? Aside from being an outstanding tender perennial worthy of a position in the garden from June on, the late summer-into-fall flowers look just like candy corn. And I know at least one nursery owner who puts luminous Plectranthus ciliata on display in the fall. I’m sold. How about you? Do you buy potted mums or have you made another late-fall flower part of your garden’s tradition?

5 thoughts on “Mum’s the word

  1. I’m with ya, sister. Missing my pinky-apricot passalong mums about now–always the last thing to bloom in the garden and so welcome. I’d go for forced cuphea but doesn’t look like it needs help! lovely.

    Lynn, we go for that cuphea so hard that we dug that plant up. Takes up almost an entire bench in the greenhouse. (And I had already brought in some reasonably sized stock plants…) Any room for passalong Sheffields in the new digs? -kris

  2. Rarely do I buy potted mums. They look like plastic cutouts. They are bossy and brassy. Gee, I should like them but, no, flowering plants should be more interesting. I’m firmly with you and Sheffield Pink is not just for Grandma’s. LOL

    Layanee, I feel like I should like them too and yet… “Bossy and brassy” is right especially when yellow is paired with that autumn-y burgundy. -kris

  3. Kris, I noticed that deep pink mum at Blithewold on Saturday! And one of the things I’ve discovered is sometimes the offsets of hardy mums will sport a new color. It happened with Sheffield in my garden (other scenario is that a seedling germinated in a new hue…)

    Also, a number of the “pan mums” will winter over if planted out in the garden and given a little mulch protection since they are susceptible to heaving with their shallow roots. Of course when they return in your garden next year, they will be tall and blowsy, even if pinched back. The artificial looking dome of color is achieved by taking many cuttings in late spring, sticking them in a pan, pinching back, and voila when the days get shorter, you get the ball of color. I did a blog piece on hardy mums in September. http://gardenforeplay.avantgardensne.com/?p=1632

    Kathy, It never occurred to me that that deep pink mum could have blown in or be a sport of Sheffield… It’s got such a much different shape too. To me it almost looks like a pinched pan mum still in its pot – but on steroids. Maybe we should be taking cuttings! And thanks for directing us to your mum post – I missed that one and it really helped to clear up some of my confusion and mental block. -kris

  4. I too, have had several different colors from my Sheffields, a bronzey yellow, bright yellow, pale yellow and a wine-ish shade, as well as different silhouettes. They look stunning all together.

    Carolyn, It’s funny – everybody keeps saying that about their Sheffields. Our bank of them is staying obstinately the same! -kris

  5. Can’t be sure from the posted photo, but the mystery mum in the rock garden bears a resemblence to ‘Will’s Wonderful’.

    Kathy, I think Will’s W is pinker than this one – its edges are pretty red. And then the whole flower seems to fade to cream… -kris

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