Thursday, 15 November 2012

Plant of the week: Mum’s the word


Our hardy pink pom pom chrysanthemum. We do not know its name!



Thirty years ago the dentist’s garden in Bolton Percy had a beautiful bedded display of a lovely pink chrysanthemum. To our horror, in late November they were dumped in a roadside skip. I rescued one plant! We have had it ever since. We call it ‘The Fairy’, but I am sure that’s not it’s correct name. One year we lost it. A friend gave us a new plant back. It’s great to give friends plants. When you lose your own, they return them in diamonds!


Our fairy looks particularly good as a specimen tub-plant. It comes into flower in early August: after autumn frosts, and just a little scruffy now, it is still flowering, well into November. For years I grew it in regular peat compost. Now I fill my tubs with my lovely sandy soil. If I make up new pots with my soil-compost, I add slow release fertilizer. Each succeeding year in the growing season, I top-dress each month with a NPK fertilizer. Chrysanthemums are very hungry plants. My ‘mums’ stand on a sunny terrace and are never staked.
Our chrysanthemum is completely hardy (most ‘chrysanths’ are not) and survived the double winter of 2010. For years I overwintered my tubs in an out-of-the-way outdoor corner. These days I have spare space in my cold greenhouse and I just dump them there! 


For demonstration purposes I have cut back these plants a little early. Cut back chrysanthemums are described as ‘stools’. With less hardy chrysanths, it might be better to delay cutting back until spring as the dead tops give a degree of insulation to the roots below.
Propagation
Each of my large pots contains as many as five stools. Sometimes a few of these stem-bases fail to sprout in Spring. It is easy to tease apart sprouting plants and evenly redistribute them in the pot. On other occasions I root cuttings of detached strong green shoots to further increase my stock.

Successful overwintering
It is curious that chrysanthemum stools overwinter better in their tubs than they do in the open ground. With most tub-plants when left outdoors, the opposite is true. Plants like agapanthus do not like their root-zones frozen solid. Chrysanthemums overwintered in the ground are susceptible to bad drainage and, in very wet spells, heavy soils can be poorly aerated.

And a churchyard story
I once planted a clump of my chrysanthemum in Bolton Percy churchyard. A foolish thing, on it’s rather heavy soil. The day after I had planted six sturdy plants in full flower, I noticed their number had been reduced to five. I could not quite believe my eyes, everything looked undisturbed. Later, when I emptied the rubbish bin (yes, I do that too), I noticed lovely pink chopped-off flowers. The thief had not covered his traces as well as he thought! In fact, everything was so tidy I imagine ‘he’ could be ‘she’.



 A late-flowering unnamed hardy variety


This pom pom ‘mum’ flowers from mid October.




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