In defense of chrysanthemums
I’ve been inspired lately by a flower that has seemed to fall out of favour by many floral lovers. Chrysanthemums, sometimes called chrysanths or the lovely term ‘mums’ are quite often marmite when it comes to bouquet making or that of garden landscaping. I absolutely love James Roush’s piece on Chrysanthemums: ‘Mums: where’s the love?’ featured on Garden Rant back in 2010 as she perfectly paints the picture of those who find Chrysanths far from their ideal bloom. She absolutely hates the little plants as they “provide nothing interesting in the way of decent foliage contrast or shape variation, and the rest of the year they're either just a slowly-growing blob that sits there like a green turd in your landscape, or they’re dead stems that break with the first snowfall.”
Chrysanthemums don’t have the same reputation of our darling peony, or the romanticism of a rose, they aren’t seen as glamorous, and they are often sold in pretty garish and unnatural colours. Shockingly bright yellow, acidic lime green, dyed candy orange, ombre e-number induced blue and I have even seen them sprayed with glitter. Perhaps also as they are the go-to garage flowers specialty, you could be forgiven for not thinking that the humble chrysanth is the perfect accompaniment to your wedding.
So I thought I’d compile some reasons why chrysanthemums should be one of your top blooms to consider.
Chrysanthemums have so many glorious meanings behind them, and although I resign that yes, they are deemed the ‘flower of death’ in France (more on that later) they are a symbol of joy, happiness & long life which surely is just the most lovely thing to bring to your home or that of a loved one. They can symbolise loyalty, devotion, trust and friendship. They are often used as a symbol of positive energy and potentially why they are so often seen as a flower when trying to cheer someone up in a time of need (although daisies and sunflowers can also do this for me!)
Close your eyes and each of us will identify a single image of what we consider to be a typical chrysanth. However did you know there are about 20,000 species and there are said to be around 13 amazing categories including Quills, Incurve, Spoon, Spider Reflex and Pompons. They come in all colours, sizes and shapes and they have a scent which although won’t be rivalling the beautiful English Rose, has still got a lovely note which reminds me of tomato plants. Mums are so generous too, from one stem you are likely to get 4-5 flowers if you have the Baltica variety, or if you are looking at the beautiful Japanese or Ostrich plume you get a big beautiful ball of petals which are so bouncy and lovely to look at.
I also love the sheer simplicity of the flower as I really adore learning their proper names, and Chrysanthemum is the same for the scientific and common name - not something you often find in botany! Also they are so easy to grow and with little to no maintenance you can have the drama of beautiful blooms in early September. Sarah Raven grows hers in large pots in polytunnels before being transplanted to her cutting garden (still in pots). She then moved them back to the polytunnel in November where she still gets lovely flowers over Christmas. However, I have quite happily had them in the ground, growing nicely and happily, watering, staking and deadheading and that is basically it. They are the perfect accompaniment to their autumnal friends, the dahlia, and I actually really love a vase filled with just one colour and lots of their big beautiful heads and they last an age!
Chrysanthemums are also possibly one of the best plants to deter bugs which especially inside is a plus - apparently according to Tru Green they deter ants, roaches, bed bugs, spider mites, ticks, and lice. The flowers are pulverised and the active component called pyrethins which occr in the achenes (hello science!) are extracted and sold in a form of an oleoresin. This is then applied in water, oil or as a powder. This pyrethin attacks the nervous system of all insects and inhibits female mozzies from biting and as such can be used as an insect-repellent.
If the sheer variety of beautiful blooms doesn’t have you wavering, then perhaps knowing they have special powers will have you weak at the knees. As indoor plants they help to suck all the nasty toxins in the air (perfect whilst we are all stuck inside!) and the tea is used to relieve sore throats and headache *read: hangover cure.
Now if you aren’t already swooning, you might need a chair because I am going to sway you with sheer commercial prowess when it comes to their insane lasting powers. Some flowers, beautiful and bouncy upon the plant, become meek and meagre at the first sight of those pruning shears, whereas the humble and joyful Mum are hardy and strong. If they were a wine, they would be a beautiful and luxurious full bodied and robust red which goes perfectly with the strongest of cheeses. A week after cutting they will look still stunning, a week after that even better and week later will still look glorious. They must have something in them, the botox of the plant world, which allows them to have everlasting youth. You are looking at around an average vase life of over two weeks, so in terms of a cost vs value analysis, they truly are the perfect bloom.
I also love that in the later depths of autumn, once the dahlias have been scared off by the frost, your Mums will still be bobbing happily (if you’ve been deadheading as you go) . They bring colour and joy when many of the other colours have left your garden.
How to Arrange Your Mums...
I have had so much fun watching Youtube channels focusing all around Chrysanthemum arrangements and I've learnt so much. From just a few stems, you can create some truly magnificent and different arrangements using a few other sundries.
One of my favourite ways to display Mums comes is to have all of the same colour. They do not need to be the same variety, but by bringing them together as one, I love the impact. You get the different textures of the chrysanthemums, but they all work seamlessly together. Using different sized Mums, you need to consider how the larger heads sit, and playing with a frog, or different vases is important to allowing the blooms to show off to their best.
Here are some of my favourite videos:
Main Image: Erol Ahmed
Jerry Wang, Foodism, Micheile Henderson
Lauren Alexander, Peter Oswold, Richard Harris]