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Don't overlook this old-fashioned mum

By Norman Winter

MSU Horticulturist
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center

FALL DISPLAYS -- An annual planting of tall, purple gomphrena in the background accentuates this display of large, rose-pink flowers on Clara Curtis, also known as Country Girl.

Chrysanthemum shopping time is close at hand, and while I would like you to buy the Belgian mums and others, you must have the old-fashioned Clara Curtis, also known as Country Girl.

This heirloom plant from Russia has a new name: Dendranthema zawadskii. It is still in production because it is an heirloom, but mainly because of its glorious fall display of large, rose-pink flowers with orange disks.

Returning year after year and putting on a show that is unrivaled is just one more reason to get it. I feel the need to stress this point. This chrysanthemum is one that will indeed be a long-term perennial.

Whether you call it Clara Curtis or Country Girl, this plant has the potential of being around quite a while, if you do your part. Your children can grow up with this flower. Plant them in full sun to produce the most floriferous compact plants. A little afternoon shade is tolerated. The soil must be fertile, organic rich, moist, but very well drained. Drainage may indeed be the key to winter survival.

If plagued by tight, heavy soil that doesn't drain, amend with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. While tilling, incorporate two pounds of a slow-release fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed space. A 12-6-6 or balanced 8-8-8 blend with minor nutrients included are good choices. Space plants 15 to 18 inches apart, planting at the same depth they are growing in the container. Apply a layer of mulch after planting.

As great as the old-time plants are, rampant growth can make them leggy. Pinching in early June, July and August develops a bushier plant that still reaches its full height, but produces even more bloom. Maintain moisture through the long hot summer and feed with a light application of fertilizer every four to six weeks. Divide in the spring, spacing as recommended.

Once freezing weather has taken its toll on the Clara Curtis, remove the foliage near the ground and add a little mulch for a winter blanket.

One of the prettiest displays I have seen of Clara Curtis was growing with tall purple gomphrena. The pink flowers combine also wonderfully with purple fountain grass and muhly grass. Grow with burgundy leafed coleus selections. The fall bloom cycle matches up well in the perennial garden with the Mexican Bush Sage and Indigo Spires.

Many growers believe Ryan's Pink is similar if not the same as Clara Curtis. Mary Stoker has pale yellow blossoms with a pink blush.

Make this the year you add the old-fashioned mums to your fall flower purchase.


Released: Aug. 26, 2002
Norman Winter (601) 857-2284

Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.

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