A Chrysanthemum Show

For several years it’s been on the list to visit a chrysanthemum show.  Not just any farmstand with fat bushelbaskets of mum color, but an official show with carefully trained displays complete with a bunch of different styles… foremost among them the single bloom monsters which I love above all others.  I don’t know much about mums, but I do know I needed to see a show.  Enter friend with suggestion to go to NYC 🙂

ny botanical garden kiku

Kiku: Spotlight on Tradition.  If the show has a name, it’s got to be official, right?  Cascading forms and bonsai trained Kiku (Japanese for chrysanthemum) greeted us as we entered the greenhouse display. 

We settled on a visit to the New York Botanical Garden.  Strangely enough, for someone with a mild plant obsession and who grew up less than 50 miles away, this would be my first visit to the NY Botanical, but better late than never, right?  Actually the truth is that the Bronx Zoo was always the winner when we were making our way to this part of the city.  Actually it still tends to win out, but at least now I can blame the kids.  I digress though.  We made it to the Gardens at a decent time and were pleased to find ourselves visiting on one of those blue-sky, crisp air mornings that are perfect for brisk walks through extensive botanical gardens.  I bet you didn’t even know that was a weather category, but for further reference it’s just a tad warmer than leaf-raking weather.

ny botanical garden kiku

Carefully trained and nurtured for months, the kiku display covers a range of styles and forms.

The actual display was a little smaller than I was expecting, probably due to greenhouse renovations and all the plant moving that goes with that, but the flowers were fascinating.  I like the big, full flowers best, but there were plenty others to catch the eye.  Actually enough caught my eye to get me thinking that maybe I need to dig a big part of the garden up and just plant it to all chrysanthemums.

ny botanical garden kiku

Class 11 brush and thistle chrysanthemum ‘Saga Nishiki’.  I believe there are 13 classes in all.  

Photographers were out in droves capturing flowers and fall foliage, and one person I spoke with was enthralled with the light… ‘the light is amazing’ she said, but for a point and shoot kind of photo-taker like myself the pictures on my camera leave much to be desired.  Hopefully the give a decent feel for the display.

ny botanical garden kiku

I was quite impressed by the garlands of chrysanthemum trained from side to side, but the towers of flowers on the right, and the various classes lined out on the left, kept me in this part of the greenhouse for quite a while.  

In case you’re wondering I did get to see plenty of the huge single blooms as well.  My tastes run to the gaudy end of the spectrum, so these big, fluffy things were just perfect.

ny botanical garden kiku

I believe these are of the regular incurve class of chrysanthemums.  I may have given a bloom or two a light squeeze, they’re so irresistibly full (my grandmother would have been appalled). 

Wait, how could I forget the spider form.  I love these as well… although I always wonder why the ring supports underneath are bright white and not a less obvious black or dark green…

ny botanical garden kiku

Spider perfection at the NY Botanical Garden

With the serious business out of the way it was time to wander the grounds and enjoy the beautiful fall weather.  Foliage was at its peak and beginning to wind down.

ny botanical garden autumn

Japanese maples never disappoint.

Early November is probably not the showiest month for flowers, but we did enjoy all the trails and vistas and well tended plantings, and it’s amazing to think our quiet afternoon happened within the city limits of a metropolis which millions call home.

ny botanical garden autumn

The light, the light… Inside the rock garden.

Although we weren’t able to find a single autumn flowering snowdrop we did catch the last of the Halloween displays and some of the other events going on in the park.

ny botanical garden autumn

Giant squash and warty gourds almost made up for the lack of snowdrops.  They’re so nice in fact that I’m actually considering planting my entire garden to squash and Indian corn next year.   

And then we arrived at the main greenhouses and I forgot all about squash and snowdrops.  The salvia were in bloom.

ny botanical garden autumn

Yellow Salvia madrensis, fuzzy purple Salvia leucantha, and probably the carmine bloom of salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ flowering in the Ladies Border.

Most of the fall blooming salvias arrive a little too late to show off in my PA garden, but here in the big city they flourish.

ny botanical garden autumn

Yellow pineapple sage (Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’) in the herb garden.  Mine is usually just opening its first flowers when frost crashes the party. 

So now I’m thinking I’ll plant the whole garden with salvias.  I could do worse.

ny botanical garden autumn

More Salvia madrensis alongside purple barberry and perennial sunflowers.  It was a beautiful day 🙂

And then our visit came to its end.  I didn’t want to admit it but my legs were kind of worn out from all the walking and when we sat down for a bite to eat neither of us were in a rush to get going again.  Perhaps we should have taken advantage of the trams circling the garden, but I’m sure there will be plenty of time to rest up when the winter season rolls in… which judging by the 10 day forecast will be sooner rather than later.

Have a great weekend!

22 comments on “A Chrysanthemum Show

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    So glad you got to see the mum show. The different classes are amazing, a bit like dog breeds, it’s hard to believe that they belong to the same species. I thought it was funny that with every new display, you were ready to plant your whole garden in that theme… you’re such a kid at heart! 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Yes, sometimes I think I have the attention span of a 6 year old!
      I was glad (and a little envious) to hear you might make your way up to the Smith College chrysanthemum show this year. I was in such a rush to post I forgot to mention it, but from what you’ve shown in previous years it looks like they might have a little less room, but they seem to pack in just as many flowers.
      Today I want a collection of conifers. It’s cold and windy outside, and I just want a green, sheltered yard.

  2. Pauline says:

    What a lovely time you had in gorgeous weather. I think you will need to move to a larger garden to accomodate all your new passions! The chrysanthemums are certainly striking, no wonder you have fallen for them.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve always wanted a larger yard, but based on the general neglect of this one I think it might be a good thing I’m limited!
      There’s nothing like being outside on a beautiful fall day and getting to enjoy the winding down of the growing season. You do feel a little guilty returning to unfinished tasks in your own garden, but all work and no play…

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What a grand show. I hav never seen a spider mum. Such a lovely walk. I love to arrive home whipped up by a day admiring flowers and gardens.

    • bittster says:

      I think I can enjoy most every type of garden show except maybe orchids. I love seeing them, but don’t ever feel the need to start a collection… which is probably rooted in the fact I’ve killed most of my attempts within a few months 🙂

  4. Chloris says:

    What a cheery thing to do in dull November. I used to dislike chrysanthemums. I can’t think why now, they are the stars of the November garden.

    • bittster says:

      Myself as well. I think once you move past the lumpy disposable-color chrysanthemums you can again begin to appreciate the forms and grace of the individual flowers. Not that I’m saying these would look nice in the garden, but there are many others which can be great garden plants.

  5. Thanks for the report. I always thought this would be a great show to see and clearly it is. Love those spider forms. That pineapple Salvia always catches my eye but frost will get it here too, so I’ve stayed away from it. But what a beauty.

    • bittster says:

      heh heh. I can’t picture a lush bush of bold yellow foliaged pineapple sage with bright red flowers sitting unobtrusively in your subtle woodland garden surrounded by epimedium and toad lilies. Actually I think it would look great, but you’re right that it probably wouldn’t make it to bloom before frost hits.

  6. I am embarassed to say that despite having lived my entire life about the same distance from the NYBG as you did, I have only been there twice — and that was to bring a plant to an American Orchid Society judging in 1983! *hangs head in shame* Naturally that was held in the evening and so I didn’t even have a chance to walk the grounds. However, I have recently learned that they have a large collection of tree peonies and so, with a bit of luck, I will wend my way back there in early May. Better late than almost-never? (but I am still embarassed!)

    • bittster says:

      I think you’ve had a lot more going on to fill your schedule than I have! And there’s always the traffic issue. Just a few miles in NY can easily add up to an hour or two in the car.
      Have you made it to Planting Fields? They have a few tree peonies which are worth a visit, and I bet it’s a much easier drive. Actually I wish I could visit during magnolia season. If you hit it during the right day on the right year you’ll forever wish for a Yulan magnolia towering above your garden.

  7. Karen says:

    Those Salvia’s are magnificent. I have Never seen a spider Chrysanthemum before quite like that pink one.

    • bittster says:

      My pictures really don’t do the border of salvia credit. There were so many rich colors, all seemed at their peak, and then with the backlighting and the grass swaying in the breeze it was quite the show. I might have been more exited about the salvias than I was chrysanthemums 🙂

  8. pbmgarden says:

    Great photos. Great show.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks, it was a nice visit but since then I’ve seen photos of other shows, and couldn’t help but notice Duke Gardens also puts on an impressive display!

      • pbmgarden says:

        Yes, I’ve been to the show at Duke Gardens once and it opened my eyes to the variety of chrysanthemums and also to the passion of the growers.

  9. Cathy says:

    An enviable day out Frank! Those spider Chrysanths are quite something. And the gardens also look really pretty there too. Definitely a good idea to plant more Chrysanthemums for more autumn colour. But I would go for the more robust ones that don’t need supports! 😉

    • bittster says:

      Yes… I also try to avoid anything needing supports, but for a few plants I do bite the bullet. Dahlias and delphinium (usually) earn a few stakes, if only so I don’t have to look at a sadly collapsed mess later in the season!

  10. I’m not a big mum enthusiast, but this sort of display is undeniably impressive. Also the spider mums are pretty cool.

  11. […] Last year I visited the NY Botanical Garden to see their display and I loved it, but for all their variety and diverse forms and traditional training techniques, Longwood had less but more and went straight for the Wow. […]

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