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.
Billardiera longiflora is a tender evergreen twining climber from Australia. It produces bell-shaped pale green flowers in summer followed by large purple-blue berries that will survive until winter. The plant is not very hardy and will not survive frost. It likes a humus rich, neutral to acid soil in a sunny position with shelter from cold winds.
Jobs for the week
Move tender plants growing in pots to the greenhouse or a warm sheltered part of the garden. Protect tender plants like tree ferns and palms growing in the ground with fibreglass. Large multi-stemmed plants can be protected with horticultural fleece when frost is expected.
In the vegetable garden lift carrots, beetroot and potatoes before the soil becomes too wet and store them for the winter. Remove all weeds and dig the soil, leaving it in rough heaps to expose it to winter frosts.
Collect seeds of your favourite perennials and store them in a dry place. The seeds of some plants like myosotidium, dierama, poppies and lychins can be sown fresh after collection to germinate next spring.
Continue to plant spring flowering bulbs, a few hours’ work now will provide lots of colour next spring.
Collect leaves that have fallen, using a wire rake and place them in plastic bags with holes in the sides. These leaves will break down over the next twelve months to produce very valuable leaf-mould that can be mixed with compost to produce a rich medium for growing plants in pots.
Flower and Garden Club Notices
The Maigue Flower and Garden Club will be holding their monthly gathering in the Woodlands, on Wednesday, October 4 at 8 pm.