September 26, 2016

Three Easy and Beautiful Ways to Use Mums in Your Garden

A single pink Dahlia looks stunning framed against this bright orange pumpkin.
A gorgeous orange pumpkin provides a wonderful backdrop to this unnamed variety of pink dahlia.
One never knows where one will find inspiration...whether for a color palette, or a composition of blooms, or an autumnal seasonal display. This dahlia above, just now beginning to show its drama (late summer intense heat held it back from strutting its stuff...) is the inspiration for my fall garden decor this year. Despite my mixing up the components of my fall show each year, it just wouldn't be FALL without mums! So let's talk about  Ways to Use Mums, this Quintessential Fall Flower, in the Home and Garden, shall we?

A fly buzzes about dahlias, mums and pumpkins.
Even the lowly fly is attracted to the beauty of a pink dahlia!
A few years ago, I wrote an article on this iconic flower of autumn for HGTV Magazine (subscribe here). The editor was an apartment city dweller, not experienced in the way of mums...or gardens in general. I was trying to explain how these happy flowers are used in our seasonal landscapes...

A beautiful pink dahlia and bud stand alone in the garden.
I wish I new the cultivar of this delicate pink dahlia.
A hybrid plant of sorts, somewhere between garden ornament and living botanical. I categorize them into what I call the  PURCHASE, PLANT (or Place) & PITCH category. It goes like this:

*You go to the store and are absolutely seduced by their tidy, bushy, happy colors and blooms. You buy them to autumnalize your home and garden. Sometimes you may buy too many. Heck no! You can never have too many of this inexpensive token of fall. I talk about what to look for when shopping in the FOUR YOUR GARDEN segment at the end of the post.

A beautiful color echo of dahlia and like-hued mum.
A beautiful color echo of dahlia and like-hued mum.
*You bring them home, and then you make one of three decisions as to how you will use chrysanthemums in you landscape. 


#1 Do you actually plant them rather permanently in place so as to show them off to their best advantage? I mean, actually digging a hole, taking them out of their pot, and tucking them in in accordance with the best perennial planting practices? With hopes that they will come back year after year for fall beauty? If so, make sure to keep their fast flushing growth cut back by half or so each summer until the end of July. This will delay bloom until fall, preventing premature flowers so to speak. You know, blooming  before or out of their season. (I am all about things showing off in their appropriate season, just saying'.) About a third of the mums growing in my beds are in this category....mostly in shades of pink, lavender and some yellow.


Pink mum in bud and bloom
Buy mums with just enough open buds to determine color.
#2 Or do you just gently tuck them into the existing flower bed....in or out of the pot....making a small crater of sorts for them to nestle into, without a lot of fuss...at just the right height and in the right position for maximum pedestrian enjoyment (if you have a lot of passers-by as do I). They may or may not be relocated elsewhere permanently for future enjoyment. If they remain good looking and healthy throughout the season it might be worth the effort. If not, you feel no guilt in relegating them to the compost heap. About a third of mine fall into this category.

Cheery orange pumpkins peak out from behind equally cheery mums and dahlia blooms.
Cheery orange pumpkins peak out from behind equally cheery mums and dahlia blooms.
#3 Or are you strictly a lover of the mum vibe, but want to exert as little effort as possible in the pursuit of it?  This may be the largest category for most people, and what I had difficulty explaining for some reason to the peeps at HGTV. You are making no long term commitment to these little bushes of color. You just plop and place them STILL in their pots wherever and however. Dropped into urns or pots by your front door, tucked into masses of blooming annuals that are now fresh and revived with the cooler, gentler temperatures. Or in between mounds of pumpkins and gourds or corn sheaves and hay bales.....making sure to keep that plastic pot hidden from view, of course.

A deep green Japanese Yew and pale sedum blooms join the party.
A deep green Japanese Yew and pale sedum blooms join the party.
Any or a combination of this purchase, place and pitch or plant strategy results in great satisfaction and seasonal joy, I assure you. Just make sure that however you use these lovelies that you keep them well watered, deadheaded, and looking fresh for the duration.

A deep green Japanese Yew and pale sedum blooms join the party.
The interior of the dahlia repeats the yellow and orange tones of fall.
Even just one $1 yellow mum sitting in your kitchen windowsill will make you glad to be alive...and happy, delirious even, that (at least in Oklahoma), fall has arrived. :)

The fall vignette comes together.


For mum buying tips and other ideas watch last Friday's FOUR YOUR GARDEN segment (here) or in the player below. Lots more pumpkin pics and ideas in future posts and on Instagram. Details below.



Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 

Also, don't forget that the OKLAHOMA HORT SOCIETY'S ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR is coming up on October 1. Find out details and ticket locations here. I hope to run into you!

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