Bringing Color to Fall: Chrysanthemums

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Historical painting of chrysanthemums from the New International Encyclopedia, 1902. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Historical painting of chrysanthemums from the New International Encyclopedia, 1902. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

Garden centers are full of chrysanthemums in stunning fall tones. Yellow is the color of the small original flower, native to China where it is one of the four noble plants, and the subject of edifying poems.  Cultivars include orange, purple, purple with orange undertones, brick red, maroon, you name it. Mums come in whatever color you want to adorn your front stoop, along with pumpkins, gourds, and bales of hay for a fall-themed entryway.

A few years ago, as a lark,  I did a series of gourds as famous paintings.  I proudly bring you Grant Wood’s American Gothic done in butternut squash:

And my kids wonder what I do all day. Art is what I do. Art, my friends. Back to mums. Here’s what’s cool about them:

1) Their colors remind me of 80s Skittles candy commercials.

2) They are the source of an economically important natural pesticide, pyrethrum.

3) There is a National Chrysanthemum Society which “promotes the propagation and cultivation of the chrysanthemum and increase the bonds of fellowship among growers of the chrysanthemum.” Sounds like quite the party.

4) Literally thousands of poems have been written in the flower’s honor in China. Here collected are some modern ones. 

5) Chrysanthemums bring color to the fall garden when other plants have up and died. They are hardy. Hardy is an important quality in my garden since instead of a green thumb I have a thumb that’s more like Oopsie, I Forgot To Water You.

Instead of keeping in containers the chrysanthemum you get this fall and kicking them to the curb after the flowers have faded, plant them. It worked for me. The buds on all my plants are about to open, and they’re showing purple, red, yellow and I might just write a poem about them.

 

 



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