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With Longwood’s Chrysanthemum Festival (October 29-November 20) just around the corner, our team of chrysanthemum growers, lead by Horticulture Technical Specialist Yoko Arakawa, is busy training, watering, and preparing our show-stopping mums for display.
This year Arakawa is especially eager to unveil our Wonder of the Mum World chrysanthemum—a single plant with over 100 different cultivars of chrysanthemum blooming. (See last year’s Wonder of the Mum World chrysanthemum pictured left)
“This year I’m thrilled to report our Wonder of the Mum World chrysanthemum will feature 150 blooms with 116 different cultivars grafted on one plant,” says Arakawa.
This is the largest and most diverse multi-cultivar mum in Longwood’s history.
Arakawa says she feels privileged and proud to practice grafting multiple cultivars onto one plant because this is an ancient technique that is not only uncommon in the United States—but it’s also rarely practiced in its native countries, China and Japan. Grafting different chrysanthemums onto one single plant is an ancient art form first developed in Asia hundreds of years ago. This technique is known as 'Hyakushu-tsugiwake' in Japanese.
“There is so much history in the making of this special multi-cultivar chrysanthemum—when I work on this plant and the Thousand Bloom mum I feel like I’m bringing a part of ancient history back to life,” says Arakawa.
The first multi-cultivar mum at Longwood Gardens was unveiled three years ago and featured just 32 different cultivars. “2009 was our first attempt at this ancient art form, and unfortunately we had a difficult time selecting the best chrysanthemums that would bloom at the same time,” says Arakawa.
This year Arakawa and her team focused on finding the best chrysanthemums in a variety of pinks, whites, yellows, and reds that would all bloom together in late October to create the most engaging and colorful display. Our growers began grafting the mums in late June and early July for this year’s fall display.
To best refine Longwood’s chrysanthemum grafting and training skills, Arakawa travels to Japan to study with the few remaining master chrysanthemum growers.
In addition to this Wonder of the Mum World chrysanthemum, Longwood’s Chrysanthemum Festival features over 20,000 blooming chrysanthemums grown in extraordinary ways throughout our Conservatory. Chrysanthemums are displayed in Cascades (potted mums trained to grow over a frame to create a cascading effect), Obelisks (mums trained up a tower), ball standards (mums trained into a tree form with two or three spheres of foliage and flowers), and Single Stems (where one single-stem plant is trained to grow as tall as six feet, with one bloom on top).
Our other featured display chrysanthemum is the Thousand Bloom chrysanthemum—a single plant with over 1,000 blooms.
Until the Chrysanthemum Festival starts, this Wonder of the Mum World chrysanthemum is being cared for in our greenhouses. Guests will able to see the Wonder of the Mum World chrysanthemum on display in the Conservatory starting October 29.
When planting fall containers, Cartwright says it is best to start with a fresh container and potting mix because it may be very difficult to add to an existing container. Since temperatures drop this time of year, Cartwright says you need to be sure that you use a frost-proof container—types of frost-proof containers include wood, metal, concrete, plastic and some terra cotta.
“You want to start with a fresh container because after several months of growth, many containers will fill up with roots making it tricky to add new plants. However, if you plan ahead, you can let some of the plants in your spring or summer containers carry you through the autumn,” says Cartwright.
Along with traditional chrysanthemums, Cartwright suggests these additional fall plants including: grasses, salvias, solidago, leonotis, and pansies. For the intermediate gardener, Cartwright also suggests starting a second crop of marigolds from seed to use.
To give your containers greater texture and variety, Cartwright also encourages home gardeners to include vegetables in their planting. “Vegetables that are perfect for fall containers are swiss chard, lettuce, beets, collard greens, and kale,” says Cartwright.
Along with plants and vegetables, Cartwright says it’s also fun to add gourds, pumpkins or dried corn to your fall containers.
If you’re considering a shrub for your fall containers, Cartwright suggests trying a compact shrub with fall color and red berries such as Aronia (chokeberry) or viburnum, or for a big bang of yellow, orange, or red berries, Ilex verticillata (winterberry holly) is a great choice.
Cartwright says many of these plants are available at a good quality garden center.
“If you’re a budget-conscious home gardener, you can start the vegetables and marigolds from seed yourself for very little cost,” says Cartwright.
All of the plants suggested by Cartwright are suited to thrive in cold temperatures, and many can even tolerate frosts and freezes. “If you choose to do a mixed container with, for example, shrubs, grasses, and kale, these plants will last into the winter months to add color and interest during the stark winter,” says Cartwright.
Follow Cartwright’s suggestions below for planting and care of your fall container:
Q: How far apart do we plant each plant?
A: It depends on the size of the plant, but be sure to leave at least 3 or 4 inches between the root balls to allow the roots to grow freely.
Q: How deep do we dig each hole in our containers?
A: The container should be filled to within a few inches of the top. The depth of the hole depends on the size of the plant, so just be sure to make a hole large enough to cover the entire root ball of the plant. Be sure the root ball of the plant is level with the soil surface, or even a touch below but not sticking out.
Q: How frequently do we water these containers?
A: Watch your new plants and containers carefully for watering. Small root balls can dry out very quickly, so you might have to water your container every day. As the weather cools, you will need to water more infrequently, but keep a watchful eye as sunny and windy conditions can dry out your containers even when the temperatures are mild.
Q: What do we do with the plants once it gets too cold and the plants can’t thrive any longer?
A: If you have used a frost-proof container and some plants with winter interest such as berries or interesting seeds, just leave your containers in place to enjoy in the winter months. When the plants are no longer ornamental, remove the plants and spent soil, wash and store your containers for the spring. Here at Longwood Gardens, all of our plants and soil are sent to our composting facility to be processed into various mulches or compost.
Q: How far into the season should our fall container last?
A: Depending on the temperatures, fall containers could last well into November – or even later if the weather is mild.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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