All we are saying … is give mums a chance!



Judging from what I see around here (stiff little balls of one variety, either in pots or stuck randomly into the ground, all turning brown), I don’t regret one negative word or thought I’ve had about mums—as they are commonly used.

But, and it’s a big but, I spent some time at the Botanical Gardens today and I did see some lovely mums. This was one of the first shows the Gardens put together after opening in 1901, and they’ve had it ever since. They’re still mums—most still have the stiff habit that make florist and gift mums so difficult to display at home—but these are more exotic varieties. The shaggy heads have a lot of personality, as you can see above.


I thought they were most successful when placed with tropicals or as part of other displays (above); by themselves (below), the tall ones don’t fare so well.


I think most of what they had were curved, incurved, spider, quill, and intermediate types, combined with shorter, anemone-flowering ones. One attractive, relaxed variety was sprawling over a rock in the fern area.


The classifications aren’t nearly as interesting or wide-ranging as tulips, for example, but they’re a lot more confusing. (Even Botanica lists some plants in the chrysanthemum area, but in quotes. If they’re uncertain, then I don’t have a clue.) The gardeners here start these from cuttings in March, pinching back twice and occasionally using extra light to encourage foliage growth.

Fun fact: The red circle on the Japanese flag is meant to be a stylized mum image, NOT the sun. I did not know that.

Previous articleGot bulb?
Next articleFirst, This.
Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Well, one of us hort types should run right over to Wikipedia and correct their entry for the Japanese flag, which indeed claims the red circle represents the sun. Hmmph!

  2. Susan, I repeated it because it is in a brochure they provided, and it seems credible, but I can still scarcely believe it myself.

  3. I decided earlier this year that I’d like to grow some chrysanthemums and was surprised how few I could find at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery. When I asked why there were so few, the nice employee confided to me that “they’re out of favor right now”. So I went and ordered a number from King’s Mums and am really enjoying them. Like you, I really like the irregular ones. Because I’m still such a beginner and slow to get over my childish feeling that pinching back plants is “hurting” the plants, I didn’t pinch these back or disbud. So they’ve grown to forms very different than an experienced mum grower would manage, but they’re still lovely. And how wonderful to have such color in fall! I’ve been taking developmental pictures of mine nearly every day:

  4. While the Japanese flag depicts the Sun, your misunderstanding is understandable. In addition to the existence of such mistaken sources as you relied upon, the Imperial Seal of Japan is a chrysanthemum, Shinto shrines show similar seals, the badges of the members of Japan’s Diet (Parliament) show chrysanthemums, and Japanese military rifles at least through WWII have little chrysanthemums engraved upon the receiver. (I am not familiar with modern Japanese weapons.)

  5. Somebody forgot to tell all my neighbors that mums are out of style. Old habits…

    My salvias are putting on a really nice show this fall, and it’s a good thing because they’re xeric, and we only have a sixty day water supply left in our town.

  6. I visited King’s Mums in California a few years ago. Granted, King’s greenhouses aren’t exactly BBG, even though they were spotless. Still, the mums were gorgeous, and I didn’t get out of the place without 5 pots to grow at home. Even the fancy mums like the ones you showed (and like the ones I bought) can look very attractive in mixed borders (code for horticultural chaos).

  7. Mums were huge and are still huge among many–my Time/Life perennial book from the early 60s (part of one of their many exhaustive series) has a pictorial focus on 3 and only 3 perennials: daylilies, mums, and–oh, damn, forgot the 3rd.

  8. On our Sept/Oct 07 issue of Washingtom Gardener Magazine – we profiled the very active Mum groups in the DC area. And if you are in the DC-area anytime soon, be sure to stop by the stunning (and FREE) annual mum show at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD — they have topiary mum animals! A polar bear in white mums is pretty damn “cool.”

Comments are closed.