The lone voice of horticultural reason


 During springtime here in the north, it’s easy to forget about what it will take to have an attractive, colorful fall garden display. We get so wrapped up in the excitement of seeing color from spring bulbs, spring-blooming perennials such as Pulmonaria, Dicentra (bleeding heart) and Lamium, plus the wonderful displays of seductive, vibrant bloom granted by rhododendrons, azaleas and crabapple trees, that we sometimes zone out concerning our plans for ensuring plenty of color in our end-of-the-season escapades.

Enter Chrysanthemum in general, and the new varieties developed at the University of Minnesota in particular.

Now is the time to buy and plant mums, the standard-bearer for fantastic fall color. Maxi-Mums, as the newest breed of northern mums are called, are the result of literally decades of mum breeding at the University. The first release, ‘Betty Lou,’ is a striking red cushion-type mum with a massive habit-after just a few seasons, plants can reach heights of three to four feet, with an equal diameter. Quite a sight.

Plant mums now in Zone 4, in two weeks in Zone 3 and by June 1st in Zone 2. They do best in full sun, but I have good success in my less-than-full-sunny yard by ensuring that the soil is well-drained, the plants are fertilized three times through August 15th, and receive about an inch of water per week.

Pinch mums by literally pinching off half of each stem with thumb and forefinger, beginning now, again in three to four weeks, and once more on the fourth of July.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener