Chrysanthemums provide an array of shapes and sizes to fill the winter herbaceous border with a wide spectrum of colours such as reds, yellows and whites.
They have no common name, but some people call them ‘chrysanths’ while Americans call them ‘mums’. Chrysanthemums will often survive in full bloom outdoors until the end of November. Even in cold or excessively wet conditions they will outlast anything else in flower, this year they are flowering very well due to the very mild weather we had in October. You can also raise greenhouse blooms to cut and bring indoors. Try growing cascade or charm chrysanthemums in pots, they have masses of smaller blooms. Chrysanthemums are available as bushy annuals or herbaceous perennials with a woody base. The annual species come from the Mediterranean region, where they grow in dry fields and wasteland. The herbaceous perennials come from China and Japan. The Chinese were growing chrysanthemums over 2,500 years ago, first for medicinal purposes and later as ornamentals.
Chrysanthemum ‘Ruby Mound’ is a hardy spray variety with a garnet red colour that grows 2 feet tall. ‘Gertrude’ has pale pink flowers that will survive into November. Chrysanthemum ‘Fairie’ has pink pompom flower heads that bloom in early autumn. Chrysanthemum ‘Clara Curtis’ produces pink flowers with centres that turn yellow as the flower opens. The flowers have a pleasant scent and are produced from late summer to mid-autumn.
Treat chrysanthemums as you would any other perennial. Given rich soil and reasonable moisture, they are easy to grow. Avoid over feeding, because lush growth invites disease and taller lanky plants are more likely to flop over. Most varieties need support but they can be cut back in June to make more compact, sturdier plants. Plant them in full sun away from any frost pockets and they will fill the autumn border with colour. They quickly form a large clump that can be divided into smaller divisions, each with a single shoot and some roots. If you lift and divide your plants every third year, they will retain their vigour and produce stocky stems that are easier to support. Cuttings of young shoots taken in spring will root in a mixture of compost and sand. Cuttings rooted in spring will produce healthy plants for planting out in May. In frost prone gardens lift and store the stools in a greenhouse to protect them from frost. After the flowers have faded, cut the stems down to 9 inches. Loosen the soil around the roots and lift the plant with root-ball. Take away some of the soil and put them in boxes packed with potting compost and water only when dry.
Jobs for the week
Raspberries are expensive to buy in the shops, but are really easy to grow if you can give them a sunny or shaded spot with well-drained soil. Raspberries are best grown from bare-rooted plants in the autumn. There are lots of different varieties available, which fruit at different times most producing fruit over the summer while some are grown for their autumn berries. Plant the raspberry canes in soil that has been enriched with plenty of well-rotted manure. Raspberries are best grown against supports, use a single tree stake and plant two raspberries canes at the base.
Allow 12 canes to grow up and tie them onto stake with twine. Plant canes 16inches apart , cut canes down to 12 inches above the soil and water well. Raspberries are a hungry and thirsty plant. Mulch the canes with well-rotted compost in spring and keep plants moist during dry weather.
Raspberry canes that produced fruit this year should be pruned now. Cut the canes that produced fruit this year right down to ground level. Tie about eight of the strongest new canes from each plant onto the stake to fruit next year, remove the rest weaker canes.
Continue to plant spring flowering bulbs, a few hours’ work now will provide lots of colour next spring.
Garden Club Notices
Limerick Flower & Garden Club next meeting takes place on Tuesday, November 8 at 8pm in the Greenhills Hotel. Demonstrator for the night is Mary McKee.