September 23, 2021

Several weeks ago, I finally gave up hoping the dehydrated mums in the mailbox planter were ever going to come back.  I pulled them out and threw them in the trash.  Not long after, the naked ladies that had sprouted leaves in the spring decided it was time to raise their flower stalks.  While these are pretty, they only bloom about a week and now they are on the decline.  Even though it has been hot there are predictions of cooler weather ahead, and that prompted Melissa to make a run to the local market to see what was left in the outdoor flower section.  When we arrived most of the flowers and all the vegetables were gone.  They did have a display of tiny succulents (Melissa already had them), a few varieties of pansies, and several sizes of different mums.   I would not have bought anything, but Melissa wanted some color in the planter.  We came home with four pansies and two mums.

When I looked mums up online, I found that the hardy mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) is valued in landscaping because they primarily bloom in the fall, adding to a four-season interest in your yard.  The varieties of mums come in a wide array of colors, as well as different flower forms, growth habits, and petal arrangements.  Mums generally hit their stride in late summer.  Like poinsettias, they are photoperiodic, meaning they rely on specific amounts of light to send the signal that it is time to start blooming.  Though technically perennials, mums are often grown as annuals, being planted in the fall already in bloom and then discarded once the cold weather starts.  They have a shallow root system and tend to heave out of the ground during the winter freeze-thaw cycles.  That happened to my mums.

Between work and the prediction of 90F’s temps next week Melissa was reluctant to plant the pansies.  They were careful placed on the screen porch where Melissa could care for them until they could safely go in the ground.  The Mums had been placed on the front walk with the expectation they would be planted and were beginning to dry out in the heat.  I decided it was time to get the mums in the ground before it was too late.  This mailbox bed has a variety of bulbs that produce new flowers and leaves in the spring and early fall.  As I carefully extricated the Bermuda grass that grows through the mulch, I came across several bulbs that I tried not to disturb.  Then I dug up the soil in the corner where it was safe to plant and placed the mums in the ground.  A last drench of water and they were officially planted.  They were scraggly, but it least there was a little color.

Thoughts:  When I directed camp our main meeting was in October.  One year I found two mums about three feet across the local nursery was trying to get rid of at the end of season.  These made the perfect splash of color to frame the entrance of the building.  Several years ago, horticulturists at the University of Minnesota developed a new chrysanthemum hybrid described by breeder Neil Anderson, as a “hardy shrub mum.”  The Mammoth Series mums can measure 2 to 3 feet (.6 to .9 meters) tall and 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) across by their third season and sport a massive canopy of flowers with up to 5,000 per plant.  Mums, like people, seem to flourish best when they are in their own niche.  The barrios or Spanish speaking neighborhoods in the southwest US have counterparts in the Chinese, Japanese, or Korean towns of larger US coastal cities.  There is a difference between settling together to feel comfortable and being red-lined and/or forced to only live in specific areas.  A variety of locations with affordable housing should be available to all.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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