Those boring chrysanthemums again.

It’s a rainy and dark October afternoon and you need a light on inside to do just about everything except nap.  This wasn’t my plan but then dark skies and October thunderstorms aren’t easy to plan for in general.  Better to just get on the computer and look at a few photos from earlier in the month, and it seems like all the earlier photos center on those most under appreciated of autumn flowers, the chrysanthemums.

chrysanthemum seedling

A nice seedling of one of the cushion mums.  Not much form or grace to it but the cantalopy orange with just a tint of pink looks good in the failed beds of the vegetable garden. 

I happen to like chrysanthemums.  More so now than in March but even if it’s a seasonal love I think they deserve more respect than that of a disposable pot of color which usually ends up in the trash on the weekend after Thanksgiving.  They’ve earned it after all, 600+ years of cultivation in Eastern Asia with a reputation for happiness and royalty shouldn’t just fade away the minute Walmart offers them at 3 for $10.  Take a look here at the National Chrysanthemum Society’s webpage for a brief overview of their history.

chrysanthemum centerpiece

Chrysanthemum ‘Centerpiece’ on the left with a similar looking seedling to the right.  Just a little bit of difference separates the two but I bet a chrysanthemum breeder would twitch at the inferiority of the other. 

I would guess if there’s one single thing which defeats the Chrysanthemum’s reputation it’s the lack of hardiness of all those late season purchases.  Gardening amateurs and experts alike often wonder why their attempts at overwintering these perennials routinely fail and why they’re left with a dead plant come springtime, and to keep my story short (and match my limited attention span), it’s because they just aren’t hardy.  They were bred for color and shape and reliable bloom and overwintering ease just didn’t factor in.

chrysanthemum seedling

A butterscotch colored seedling… or is it pumpkin colored… either way it’s a nice dose of color.

I suppose this all brings me to the point of this post.  I’ve been ‘dabbling’ in the hardier chrysanthemum sorts, the kinds which look great, grow without a care, and overwinter without a problem, and I’ve found it’s easier than you’d think.  As an added bonus they seem to like my poor soils and frequent droughts, and the bare patches of my beds will usually sprout a few mystery seedlings each spring to keep me guessing as to what surprises are coming along each fall.  A few online sources offer hardier types but I’ve been getting most of mine through Faribault Growers and their Mums of Minnesota offerings.

chrysanthemum Bristol white

Chrysanthemum ‘Bristol white’ in front (not a favorite since hard freezes will brown the tender centers) with a few interesting seedlings behind.

The mums I’ve been getting have had little trouble with winters here (z6a) but every now and then give up due to frost heaving or a late spring freeze (about half my plants unexpectedly died this year when an arctic front rolled through in late March after growth had started…).  They’re still not as surefire hardy as the Korean mum types (developed using the hardily named Chrysanthemum sibiricum) but they’re shorter and bushier and have more of a variety of flower colors and forms and it’s just what I need to distract me from the changing leaf colors and dying annuals of autumn.

chrysanthemum seedling

Another seedling.  The singles seem to be more popular with the pollinators, I’m just impressed that these survived a summer of neglect and drought and poor soil here at the base of a yew hedge.

I believe one of the more popular Mums of Minnesota introductions have been the Mammoth mum series.  They’re spreading, hardy perennials and just massive mounds of color when in bloom, but for as much as it pains me to say I have to classify them as a little boring.  They do great next door in my MIL’s mulch beds (which honestly are even more boring without the mums), but for as far as a plant to get excited about…. they’re not.  Luckily they know a little trick, and that’s their promiscuous selfsowing and all the little surprises they leave in the monotonous spread of shredded wood mulch.

mammoth mum seedlings

Momma plant (‘Red Daisy’) fills the upper left of the view, her mongrel offspring fill in along the bottom and up the right.  As you can see they don’t come anywhere near to ‘true’ from seed and there are even a few well-doubled flowers showing up.

Next year I may try and find a spot to plant out a bunch of the seedlings and see what greatness they amount to but I warn you not to hold your breath on that one.  It’s hard to get excited about mum in April and even harder to find enough open spots to fill with something that doesn’t pay off until October.

chrysanthemum mellow moon

This might be my favorite.  Chrysanthemum ‘mellow moon’ has these large, softly colored flowers which make great cut flowers but as you can see the clump’s been invaded by an odd yet attractive pink daisy seedling.  Hopefully next spring I can separate them out since I don’t want to crowd out the moon. 

chrysanthemum seedling

Another seedling, this one a complete dwarf.  I wonder how better soil conditions will change this plant, since this dry part of the bed is far better suited to cacti.

The whole mum clan seems pretty easy from seed and it’s always fun to see what shows up.  My last few photos are of a seedling which came from the HPS seed exchange and although they’re nothing like their ‘Innocence’ parent (a pale pink single which blushes pink with age) they’re indestructible through winter cold and summer drought.  Their only flaw is either the need for staking, or a harsh chop back in early July to control floppiness.

chrysanthemum innocence

A seedling of chrysanthemum ‘Innocence’

If you noticed the previous picture has about half a dozen ailanthus webworm moths wandering the flowers.  It’s an oddly colored little thing and I was hoping for something rarer and possibly native when I first spotted them… but as it is with most insects around here, if there are more than enough, chances are it’s not native.

ailanthus moth

Ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea).  A unique look in my opinion.

I’ll leave you with another one of the large flowered mums which seems quite content in my less than ideal garden conditions.  I had taken at least two or three pictures before I realized the flower was looking back at me.

chrysanthemum gold country

Chrysanthemum ‘Gold Country’ with someone else who might be interested in pollinating moths and such. 

Hope you had a great weekend, gloomy rain or not, and hopefully there’s a spell of nice planting weather coming up so I can finish up all the unfinished gardening work of 2016… or not.  There will be plenty of time for gardening ambition in February 🙂

31 comments on “Those boring chrysanthemums again.

  1. Oh, I’m glad you linked to Faribault Growers again. Mums have been on my mind and I was almost to the point of searching through your back posts or outright asking you for the name again. It seems to me if they grow in Minnesota they should grow here. I have what I believe are two Korean kinds but I could use a little more bloom in October. Quite obviously they seed around, but do the mums you grow spread by runners, too?

    • bittster says:

      They do spread slightly by runners but not in an invasive way. Some are tight clumps and others spread out. They’re also remarkably easy by cuttings so let me know if you want any next spring. I think I might have offered before, but it was such a horticultural wasteland this spring after all the new shoots froze to death that I really had no idea what was left.
      Of course next spring everything will be perfect 😉

  2. Jane Strong says:

    Oh, many thanks for all the glowing photos. I love chrysanthemums, too.

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    I like mums, too. But I’ve never managed to plant any of the hardy types, although every autumn I see others and think I should!
    Our nearby college conservatory has a mum show every Nov. with lovely exotics and student hybrids that we get to vote on. It is a great tradition dating back over 100 years and always puts me in the mood for Thanksgiving with the harvest colors.

    • bittster says:

      Now that sounds exciting! I would love to see all the fancy and well grown types. Actually I just received an email from Longwood announcing their autumn mum show and am seriously considering trip down there… even though I doubt it will happen, Christmas will probably be our next visit.
      Apparently a few of the larger flowers which I’m growing can be fertilizer and pinched into one of the large fancy types but I’m just not that committed yet.

  4. pbmgarden says:

    Your chrysanthemums look beautiful. I think they’re underappreciated these days.

    • bittster says:

      I agree. Many of the older chrysanthemums as well as anything newer which might require pinching are frowned upon as too much work… and then what you’re left with is somewhat boring.

  5. I like mums, too, especially the daisy types. I have a hardy mum called Sheffield Pink that is tough as nails. But I even had a cheapo discount annual mum come back for me for several years. 🙂 Hope to see you at the Fling!

    • bittster says:

      I’m all for tough as nails perennials!
      I wish I could get to the fling, but the guilt of leaving the kids and fam behind might be too much… or it might be just what I need 😉

  6. joepyeweed1 says:

    Thanks for your great show of chrysanthemums! Wonderful to have this time of year.

  7. Peter Herpst says:

    I’m a mum lover but have always planted them in the fall as color spots and they usually rot by spring. Your cool examples and the mongrel seedlings have me thinking about finding some in the spring next year!

    • bittster says:

      That’s a tough one, in the spring it’s always hard to commit to something like chrysanthemums which will just sit there for months looking kind of dull until September… but if you can do it I’m sure you’ll be pleased with yourself!

  8. Christina says:

    Gloomy days easily change my mood, luckily this weekend has been bright and sunny to make up for the gloom earlier in the week. My Chrysanthemums made it through the winter last year but I usually take some cuttings as an insurance policy.

    • bittster says:

      I’m surprised chrysanthemums aren’t considered completely reliable in your climate. There must be other factors beyond low temperature which influence the hardiness.
      I hope you are still into the bright, sunny and comfortable portion of your season. We’re having a few really nice days here and I love it!

      • Christina says:

        We’re still experiencing a mix of good days and rainy dull days. Today it is rain. Certainly not as nice as some years but so far it isn’t cold.

  9. johnvic8 says:

    They aren’t boring at all. Happy Halloween!

  10. Summer Daisy says:

    Gorgeous flowers! Love them ♥

  11. Cathy says:

    They certainly don’t look boring in your garden Frank! Love the mellow moon especially. I zoomed into that last photo and almost jumped when I saw what was sitting there! LOL!

  12. Not a big fan of mums, but I admit yours look good.

  13. They certainly provide gorgeous color when there’s not much left blooming. And if they grow in MN . . .

    • bittster says:

      You might be able to find a few which have a little grace to them. They do have a bit of an Asian feel to them, so there might be a place for them in your garden 😉

  14. Chloris says:

    I love hardy chrysanthemums, they are such a bonus in autumn when everything else is winding down. I have never had any self seeding and I would love it if they would. I am going to try sowing seeds this year and see what I can get. You have a lovely selection.

    • bittster says:

      The only problem with intentionally sowing seeds is that there are a million better things to do than tend mum seedlings in June. I’m sure you will be far more responsible than me, but mine tend to suffer the first year in their seedling pots until I finally realize in August that they may be worth caring about.

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