Monday, August 09, 2010

Mum's The Word

There are many alternatives to the yearly display of mums in our containers and in the landscape.  My husband feels they are a waste of money because they bloom for such a short time and rarely come back (in our zone) the following year.  If you do put them into the landscape and they do return they must be pinched in a semi-circle shape several times up until July to get that mounding shape you see in the nursery.

Each year I say I am not going to buy many mums, and each year I see a variety that I cannot pass up.  I never realized until a couple of years ago when I began to research certain varieties that there are certain bloom times.  There are early season varieties, middle and late, so if you are going to spend the money it is worthwhile to span the fall season.  I see many people walking out with plants in total bloom and know that they will not be pretty for very long.  Select your mums when the buds are still tight with just a few opening up so you can see the color.

Helga is an early mum in a creamy white.  The insects seem to leave this one alone and it blooms for a long period of time.  I also have had luck with Helga returning for a couple of years.

The pale colors and dark tones look lovely up close, but if you want your mums to pop out of the landscape from any distance, choose the bright yellows and oranges.  I love white mums or creamy colors, but some of the pure whites attract slugs at night.

I have begun to use some perennials in my containers in the fall.  Sedums, like Vera Jameson look wonderful hanging over the edges of a containers, ajugas, cabbages, sedge grasses, some bright orange pansies all look great and all can be transplanted to the garden late in the season.  I have my Vera Jameson from last year hanging over my vegetable garden.

Upright White Peacock Cabbage

Yellow Stemmed Swiss Chard

In the landscape, cabbages will hold up until December and some of the pansies are guaranteed to come back in the spring.  This is a link that will give you an extensive list of mums, their chacteristics and bloom times.

If you must have mums, and I will probably give in and buy a few, bring your list with you of the bloom times so you can have them throughout the fall season.


Anonymous said...

Dear Eileen, What excellent advice about extending the flowering interest of Chrysanthemums. As you say, varieties are available which will extend the season for weeks if chosen wisely.

Chrysanthemums are not a favourite of mine and always remind me of that iconic phrase from 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie'.....Chrysanthemums, such serviceable flowers....damned for ever with faint praise!!

Bernie said...

Great post. You've just taught me something about Mums I never knew before. Actually I've never ever been interested in Mums in the garden ... I always think of those horrible bunches of mums on sale for Mother's Day when I think of mums at all! Now I know there's a beautiful mum like 'Helga', I'm starting to become interested!
Just love your sedum 'Vera Jameson' ... it does look good in the vegie garden bed.

garden girl said...

Hi Eileen, reading so many garden blogs I've come to realize I'm somewhat of an exception in my enjoyment of mums. I find them very easy to care for and grow, and as long as they're planted early in the season they come back for me year after year. New plants are so easy to start from cuttings. I pinch mine twice a year - in mid-May and again in late June. That's all it takes to keep them shapely. They're drought tolerant, and bloom well for me even in part sun, adding nice, bright color to the garden in fall when not much else is blooming.

This said, I do think mums are often overused, and you've given many excellent suggestions for fall container and garden plantings. Although I haven't used perennials much in my containers, I use them often in container plantings for clients, then pull them out at the end of the season and plant them in their gardens where they usually survive the winter. In the fall perennials are easy to find at huge discounts. Next season they're either left in the garden beds for good, or dug up and replanted in the clients' containers, saving them a few extra dollars in spring when perennial prices are at their highest.

I love the colorful cabbages, kales, and chards in the fall too, and the color and texture they add late in the season after frost has done in most of the annuals. And what's not to love about pansies!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Edith,

When I use mums, it is mostly in containers because I do not have room in my borders. I have one that I wintered over in the veggie garden, put it in the border, and it is huge.

I have never, in in my larger property, had much luck with them coming back more than a year or two.

I did enjoy that film, I think Maggie Smith.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Bernie, Helga is a very nice one, warm cream color. I agree with you, I don't like to see rows of mums in every imagineable color.

They do add seasonnal color to a mixed container.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Garden Girl,

I do agree that if mums are planted in the spring and pinched as they grow, there will be a great fall display. I have one that I wintered over in the veggie garden and it is now quite large.

I wish I had more room in my borders to do this but they are jam packed with perennials. I will put some mums in my container plantings and try to winter over again in the veggie garden.


Karen said...

Hi Eileen, I wish I'd done some research about mums earlier in the year, because I did not pinch them. I can see I would have had a much more shapely plant with a delayed blooming if I had done my homework. I have never had much luck with mums in the past, but last fall I purchased some for an October wedding party who came for a photo shoot. In October, there's not a whole lot blooming, so I thought I'd add some color by sticking little mum plants in 4" pots here and there in the quarry, leaving them right in the pots. After the wedding, I planted the mums for real, and to my surprise, they survived and are thriving. I'll probably only get one year out of them, but I'm still happy with my little $3 purchases.

Thanks for the inspiration!

joey said...

I always treat mums like annuals since to me they never look that good and are garden hogs :) I do like them in containers and we use them extensively in our public gardens to replace waning summer plants. I hate to think of autumn, Eileen :(

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Karen,

I only looked up some varieties because I had bought some large containers and they were gone in a few weeks. Little did I know I bought an early variety and by the end of September they were done. I don't think I will even bother with the early ones as my annuals will still be going strong.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Joey, I agree, I don't have room in my garden for mums. I might stick some in my containers for a pop of color.


RainGardener said...

Hi Eileen, Great information. Maybe I'll quit wasting my money on them now. I know they never seem to come back but there are some very pretty ones and I sucker for them every year. Dang! Well so much for that! Thank you.

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Hi Eileen. I did not know that there were mums that bloomed at different times either. Very informative.
I have mums in containers that I drag in and out of the basement each year.I out up with the cutting back because I am cheap LOL!
I just planted two Vera Jameson sedums this summer and I am still trying to decide if I am going to like them. I guess I was under the impression that they were taller so they will most likely get moved.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Lona, what a great idea! I guess I could find a little spot in the basement for those big expensive ones. I am assuming you cut them back and then water them a little all winter - if not let me know.

Vera Jameson is very floppy and behaves differently depending upon where it is planted. In Wisconsin they are huge, very round and not as much flop. Where I live, near Chicago, they are more delicate and hang over the walk or my veggie garden. They do look good in the fall in containers.

The problem is you can only use so many Vera Jamesons in the garden!


Zoey said...

Hi Eileen,
Mums in my Michigan garden are not very reliable either.

I have had a year or two when they returned and look gorgeous, but most years they die out, so now I do not usually buy any.

I am now happy just to admire them in other gardens on the internet.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Zoey, you are probably right. The large mums can be very expensive and then to throw them away after a few weeks doesn't make sense.

I may buy some of the $3.00 ones at Home Depot to stick into my containers.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Your husband is right, but mums are just so beautiful--for a short while. They are like the last floral celebration before the cold puts a period to all blooming things.

I have Vera Jamison too and love her. She is perfect in containers.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Oh good Marnie I can tell him this! I guess I have always believed this but you have put it into words and made buying some mums worth it!


MrBrownThumb said...

I've never really cared much for mums. I mean, I enjoy them when I see them in public planters but the thought of planting them myself never really occurred to me.

Thanks for the suggestions in alternative to plant in the garden.