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Mum's the word for every landscape
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
This time of the year, “mum” is the word at Mississippi State University's Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, and it certainly should be at your home, too. We have hundreds of species of flowers from salvias to roses to tropicals, but what would fall be without the garden mum?
We are planting hundreds of them to evaluate and to add that extra pizzazz to the Fall Flower and Garden Fest that brings in thousands of visitors to see the latest in fall flowers, vegetables and herbs.
We have old-fashioned mums like the Country Girl or Clara Curtis that have reached heirloom status, and hot new varieties like the Belgian mum that offers a rugged nature that surprises many gardeners. We've partnered our mums with lantanas, salvias, coleus, grasses, gaura and dwarf sunflowers.
The Belgian mums come in early-, mid- and late-season, allowing you to design your landscape for maximum blooming potential.
We've planted Savona, an early red selection, as well as Cesaro, one of the most popular yellow varieties. Some of our mid-season selections include Terano Yellow; Frimo, which is white; and Pizarra, a dazzling rusty-red variety. One standout late-season variety we are planting is Sapiro, which is available in both yellow and a richly saturated orange.
Now is a great time to shop for mums at your local garden center. What I like about the Belgian mums are their sturdy branches that almost refuse to break as you transport and then plant them in the landscape or mixed containers.
Choose from those that are blooming to give instant color for parties or game day celebrations. I prefer to select plants with flowers still in tight buds because this allows for maximum bloom in the garden. Another thing I like about the Belgian mums is the sheer number of buds. A Belgian mum in an 8-inch pot likely will have more buds than you can count.
Most gardeners treat their chrysanthemums as annuals, much like they would petunias or marigolds, and there is certainly nothing wrong with this. Mums are pretty much annual for those of us who change out our beds to continually try new plants.
On the other hand, at the Truck Crops Experiment Station we have areas where Country Girl has become established, and these plants are happy in their fifth or sixth season. I like this mum for its large flowers and height that pushes 24 inches.
Soil preparation plays an important role in a mum's ability to be a perennial. We plant all our mums on raised beds where prepared, organic landscape mixes have been incorporated into the topsoil.
If you're planning on putting in some mums at your house, keep light -- or actually, darkness -- in mind. Avoid planting mums under streetlights or floodlights that would create artificially long days and limit blooming.
Regardless of which mum you choose, now is the time to shop. If your garden center has Belgian mums, give them a squeeze and watch how they bounce back, and then start counting buds. You'll find yourself loading up the shopping cart right away.