A Festival of Mums

Well I do feel guilty overposting when I don’t even take the time to respond to comments or visit other blogs, but there was a second part to my recent garden-day-out which just doesn’t fit into that post, and it’s just too good to not share (as opposed to some of the things I put on about my own garden!).  Our beautiful morning in the private garden of Charles Cresson was followed by an equally beautiful afternoon at the very public Longwood Gardens.  Of course we were late, so there were a few seconds of nervousness when we saw the crowded parking lot and the well-past admission time on our timed tickets, but all was well.  We cruised through a perfectly distanced and contact-free admission process and were exploring the grounds just minutes later.

longwood bell tower

Longwood’s  bell tower with fall color and some late afternoon sunshine.

The weather was still perfect, the grounds were perfect, the fall colors were perfect, the water was clear, fresh sod was laid, the paths were raked.  Longwood is an excellent autumn strolling garden, but to be honest I sometimes get a tiny bit bored.  I wasn’t in the mood to hike the meadow, I had seen miles and miles of autumn color on the drive down, and all the summer plantings were already out and replaced with uber-neat animal netting to protect the recent tulip plantings, or super tidy raked soil.  It all made me feel somewhat guilty for the unplanted bulbs and general mess at home, so our stroll was actually kinda short.

hamamelis virginiana 'Harvest Moon'

Hamamelis virginiana ‘Harvest Moon’ looking exceptional amongst late bloomers and autumn grasses.  It’s in full sun by the way, and I’ve noticed that even the wild ones which line my path to work bloom much heavier when in full sun.

My friend Paula was with me, and we both agreed that next year Longwood should call us and let us pick through their trash pile of discarded annuals and tropicals and help them get rid of some of that mess.  I’m sure my better half would have no problem with me coming home with a trunk full of things to pot up and keep inside all winter 🙂

Tetrapanax papyrifer

In the gardens behind the bell tower I saw a few big clumps of ricepaper plant (Tetrapanax papyrifer) which looked as if they had overwintered in the spot.  I love the leaf on this thing and have been trying to get one for years, even if it is a terrible spreader and some people are allergic to the fine hairs…

yellow ilex opaca

A very well-planned combination of yellow Amsonia hubrichtii foliage backed by a ripening crop of yellow berried American holly (Ilex opaca)

Of course you can’t judge me for thinking I have either the room or time to take in dozens of high maintenance and tender plants which are totally unreasonable for my garden.  It’s a much cheaper addiction than fancy shoes that don’t fit comfortably or a flat screen tv which is just too big for a room which sits you six feet away.  But I’m digressing.  We actually came to see the mums, and as we approached the conservatory things started to look promising.

longwood chrysanthemums

Wow 🙂 Hardy chrysanthemums grown as a basket on top (I think) raised high over a planter of the same.

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.

longwood chrysanthemums

My favorite part, the explosion of yellow lining the path across the orangery.  Giant yellow chrysanthemums and a wall of yellow Salvia madrensis.   

If you’re still with me you may be wondering just how exactly you can “have less but more”, so let me try and explain myself.  There were fewer total varieties and forms, but hundreds of each.  I don’t know how you plan or find the room to grow and train hundreds (or even thousands!?) of mums to football size perfection, but apparently Longwood does.

longwood chrysanthemums

There was so much yellow here I wanted to roll in it.

The rest of the conservatories were just more wow.  I think the less I write the better, so here it is.

longwood fern conservatory

The exhibition hall, flooded with a film of reflective water and shaded by tree ferns.  The topiary are begonias and I don’t think I’ve ever liked begonias more.

longwood chrysanthemums

The ‘thousand bloom’ chrysanthemums.  A single plant grown and trained for a meticulously perfect show.  The one in back is absolutely huge.

longwood chrysanthemums

Maybe these were all the leftovers?  A merciful Longwood employee opened the one-way barrier and let me through when she saw me standing there mumbling ‘I need to go there, I need to go there’.  I loved it.  Maybe this was my favorite…

longwood chrysanthemums

If the yellow was too much there were plenty of yellow-free zones.

longwood chrysanthemums

Yeah there were a lot.  ‘Chrysanthemum Festival’ is a worthy title.

longwood chrysanthemums

And every single, last one was perfectly grown.  I suspect there’s still half a greenhouse worth of backups somewhere!

I enjoyed it.  If you’ve never been I recommend giving it a try, just know that the display comes down this weekend and the conservatories close until after Thanksgiving as they prep for Christmas, so that someday visit might have to wait until next year.

Keep your fingers crossed and faces masked in the meantime.  The kids are annoyed I didn’t take them along, and are anxious to see this year’s Christmas decorations, but with record COVID cases and rising deaths across the country and with rising numbers in Pennsylvania I don’t know how that will work out.  I’d say we can hope and pray for the best but seriously…  just wear the stupid mask and avoid the party at the bar and that will probably get us much further than some false hopes and empty prayers.

But I’m probably preaching to the choir here.  Stay healthy and have an excellent weekend and wish me luck as I finally consider my own messy garden and unplanted bulbs 🙂

25 comments on “A Festival of Mums

  1. Paula says:

    A perfect day… (even if I didn’t get lunch to you)

  2. Paddy Tobin says:

    It is an extraordinary display.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I love seeing this post. Keep em coming.
    They really jazzed their mums.

  4. Tim C says:

    Wow indeed.

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Astounding, to say the least. They certainly know how to do it up right. I loved the pink tubs on the outside and the yellow salvia – incredible. I almost cried to see the perfectly groomed domes, can you imagine the person who lovingly tended them for months to achieve that? A Japanese bonsai master came to mind. Truly a mind-blowing exhibit. It makes it hard to go face my own paltry attempts at gardening. I must remind myself that if I had a team of gardeners at my disposal, I might have more to shout about. 😉

    • bittster says:

      Yes, it’s a whole different level when you’ve got a team to focus on certain areas and switch things out the minute something fades. It looks great though.
      My head sometimes swells when I get a perfectly perfect single snowdrop or chrysanthemum and for a bit it bursts when I see things like this… but then I go right back and it’s all good. Here I can ignore the garden for a week or two and no one is the wiser, I’m not sure if that flies at Longwood 😉

  6. Chloris says:

    What a treat, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Still, I prefer the daisy faces and little pompoms of hardy chrysanthemums. But how nice having a day out with a bit of magic in these plaguey times we live in.

    • bittster says:

      Outside of the masks and one way signs it was just as nice as any other visit. Maybe even better since we’ve been trying to stay at home for so long.
      I think my floppy and wispy hardy mums are still quite safe here. The monsters are fun to see, but deep down inside I know I’ll never be able to commit to growing anything similar.

  7. Cathy says:

    Wow, what an extravagant display! These big pompom Chrysanths are perfect for that kind of show. I rather like that ‘leftover’ bed too. Lucky you can still visit such shows.

    • bittster says:

      Of course we can still visit, but based on the numbers of illnesses around here I’m not sure it’s the best thing. Still much safer than a night at the bar afterwards but don’t be too envious.
      I just laughed when I thought of one of those big mum pompoms outside in the garden while listening to the wind gusting through the trees. They wouldn’t last five minutes here!

  8. Deborah Banks says:

    Wow indeed. I never realized the ‘thousand bloom’ chrysanthemum was a single plant. Too OCD for me, but amazing. I love the yellow room with the perfect color echo in the salvias and the dark green ivy on the columns that matches the dark green mum foliage. Stunning.

    • bittster says:

      heh heh. My thoughts exactly. The thousand bloom mum is a masterpiece, but I think it’s more for the instagram crowd. I look at it and think ‘ok’, ‘that’s big’ and then move on to get all excited over a variegated rubber tree or some camellia petals that fell into a fountain 🙂

  9. Ian says:

    I’ve never been that keen on chrysanthemums. Your blog makes me think again. I’ll give them a try.

    • bittster says:

      Don’t get carried away with chrysanthemums, you want to make sure there’s still plenty of room for snowdrops 😉
      I was glad to see you posting again! I have a few fall bloomers coming up, ‘Barnes’ and a few unnamed ones from bulk elwesii orders.

  10. Somehow I always assumed I would get to Longwood, but these days I am a lot less sure of that. So it is wonderful to see these incredible plants on display in your photos. Amazing on every level. Color, form, size — every aspect is top of the game.

    • bittster says:

      Well. Longwood is pretty and they love color and swaths of plantings, and I know you would enjoy it, and they do everything in a big way… but…. in my opinion… much of it is a show for people who are just generally interested in gardening. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazingly talented people there and numerous experts and specialists, but I think you would be just as excited to see a few potfuls of amazing species tulips as you would to see the huge blocks of the single colors which Longwood loves. I guess what I’m trying to say is you’d love seeing it, but I think you’d also recognize that you’ve been very fortunate in enjoying what’s more local for you as well.
      and btw they don’t even have a Japanese garden. Jeesh.
      If you do make it out though you should really get to Chanticleer as well!

  11. Annette says:

    An awesome garden which I’d love to see some day. Some bits may be a bit gaudy but certainly high standard. The Hamamelis took my breath away!

    • bittster says:

      I hope you do get a chance to see it some day 🙂
      The hamamelis was such a nice surprise. Right there in the middle of a perennial planting looking just wonderful, and even better as a single plant rather than being overdone in a group of six or seven!

  12. Oh, my — I have a serious case of Longwood envy! Such a treat to tour with you, Frank, from the safety of my armchair at these scary times. I decided recently that I love yellow blooms — that’s new for me as used to hate the color. The yellow that you want to roll in is my favorite picture. Stay safe and well! P. x

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Pam! I hope that in a few more months we can all come out and play again.
      Funny how our tastes change so much. Orange was the color I hated, and now even that is changing 🙂

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