GARDENING

with Deryn Thorpe

Chrysanthemum: Mother’s Autumn Bloom

Chrysanthemums

Many people think that Chrysanthemums are the floral symbol of Mothers' Day in Australia because they have the word 'mum' at the end of their name.

However, the reason is probably more practical, as the plants are at the peak of their autumn flowering around the time we celebrate Mothers' Day.

Potted specimens with extravagant exhibitionist blooms on long stems are popular gifts but if your Mum has a practical side she will probably prefer a pot of the multi-flowered specimens which are much easier to grow.

Potted plants will last for a few weeks indoors if kept in a sunny spot and kept damp. When they stop flowering cut them back to about 15cm tall and plant them in the garden in a sunny spot in well-drained soil.

Originally hailing from China, the perennial plant has been cultivated for 2500 years and for the last thousand years has been the symbol of happiness and longevity in Japan. There are also annual species with daisy-like flowers from North Africa and Europe.

Plants flower in shades of deep burgundy, yellow, shades of pink and mauve, bronze, orange and white. The plants have a wide range of forms including those that look like daisies, spiders and pom poms.

Looking after chrysanthemums in the garden is easy as the plants are very hardy once established. They need full sunlight to semi-shade and regular feeding until the blooms first show colour.

There are basically two ways to grow the plants. For a bushy, free flowering display prune off the top growth to encourage it to branch out. For big showy flowers take off all the side buds, leaving only the topmost buds to form.

Plants can be grown from seeds though they do not come true to type and enthusiasts usually only use seed to grow miniatures.

Although many gardeners grow the plants by dividing up the old clumps, the best and strongest plants are those grown from cuttings which are taken about 7cm or so from the tips of the stem in spring.

Different varieties will flower from late summer to early winter. To make them flower later keep pruning off the flower heads for a month or two to delay flowering.

They make superb cut flowers

and additions to the perennial border and of course, nothing is better

than giving your Mum a bunch of flowers that you have lovingly grown yourself.

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