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Welcome The Fall With Mums

Come September, when gardeners face dying flowers and overgrown plants, it's time for planting fall mums. Mums are extra hardy and can stand the cold nights and warm days of fall. On The Saturday Early Show, garden designer P. Allen Smith shared with us the color and choices that mums give gardeners this autumn.

Color isn't the only thing separating one mum from another - size and the shape of the bloom are also characteristics that make mums unique. There are over 100,000 types of garden mums. Everything from spray mums to pompons, daisies, decorative mums, anemones, buttons and spiders. Some garden mums also come in a combination of flower forms such as spoon-tipped daisies.

Football Mums
Chrysanthemums, also known as football mums because of their large blooms, are not to be confused with their cousins, garden mums, which have smaller blooms and are grown in shrubs. The chrysanthemum has been grown in Asia since 500 B.C. To the Japanese, the chrysanthemum symbolizes happiness and a long life. Chrysanthemums are used mostly as a cut flower and can last in a vase up to two weeks, as long as you keep the water clean. Football mums are also popular corsages during homecoming season. It's traditional to give your girlfriend or mom a football mum to wear at the "big homecoming game."

Garden Mums
P. Allen Smith says he likes looking for ways to keep as much color in the garden as long as possible and that's why he loves the garden mums. He says their colors, like yellow and orange, seem to be naturals for the fall landscape.

Garden mums traditionally come in the form of a small shrub. Smith prefers to buy mums with tiny buds (instead of full blooms) so as to enjoy the explosion of color himself.

He also likes heavily budded mums because it gives the plants more of an opportunity to root in flowerbeds, and they just seem to settle in better and look more natural in the landscape.

For the greatest visual impact, Smith likes to group several plants, putting them close enough to one another so they form a dense mass. He says plants are more striking if you group a single color or color family.

For all of these buds to mature into flowers, it's important that you don't let the mums get too dry. Without plenty of moisture, the flowers can be small and misshapen. Once they bloom, Smith cuts them back, digs them up, and moves them to another part of the garden, giving him room to plant tulip bulbs for blooms next spring.

Planting Mums:

Mum Container: Container gardening is great because you can change out the plants for any given season, says Smith. The important thing is to pick a good-sized pot. He says he likes big 24-inch clay pots.

If you're planting in a clay container and you don't think you'll bring the container inside after it gets cold, but you don't want your pot damaged by freezing and thawing, you may want to apply a water sealer on the outer edge and the inside of the pot, says Smith. A water sealer is a special liquid, available at garden centers, that keeps the pot from cracking.

To start a container, Smith uses a pre-mixed potting soil and fills the container to about three-quarters full. Whether Smith is planting a container for spring, summer or fall, he says he always uses the same basic design principles that have never let him down:

  • Use plants from the same color family.
  • Look at plants in an abstract sort of way.
  • Look at their form, something tall and spiky, something round and full, and something to cascade over the edge of the pot.

After the mums have all bloomed, you can save the plant for next year. "I just cut back the flowers and move the mum to a section of the garden where it will be out of the way until next year. Then in this pot or in the ground, you can plant bulbs for the spring," says Smith.

It is easy to choose plants that will have another life in the garden after their time in the container is over, says Smith. Things like ivies, ornamental cabbage and kale, chrysanthemums and ornamental grasses are great candidates for fall containers.