Article by Guest Author Kate Hemlock
After the “Extreme Winter” we just experienced here in the valley, with record-low plant-destroying temperatures, followed by the one of the hottest and driest “Extreme Summers” ever recorded, I am ready for an “Extreme Autumn”. An Autumn with sunny 70 degree days, clear cool nights, and misty mornings. An Autumn with the brilliant color of fall foliage, a bountiful harvest of produce and pumpkins, and the jewel tones of Fall Mums.
Chrysanthemum plants, also called Garden Mums or just Mums, are a porch and patio staple for homes and gardens for the fall season. Even one flowering plant, snugged up to a pumpkin or perched alone by a door, brings instant cheer and a feeling of festivity wherever it is placed. Available by August at NW retailers, Mums can be placed ready-to-go in the pot they came in, added to planters with other hardy textural plants such as Euphorbias, Heucheras and grasses, or planted into garden beds to add a pop of color where petunias and other summer color plants have long dried up. They can tolerate full sun to part shade, but perhaps last the longest with their display of color where they get some shelter from the heat of summer’s last scorching days. As the multitude of flower buds open and fade, pluck off the spent flowers to reveal light for the next buds to open and keep the plant fresh. Keep these thirsty plants well watered, but avoid the standing water of a drip saucer for more than a few hours. Varieties such as Decorative Mums, Belgian Mums and many Spider Mums differ from their tender Florist-mum counterparts in that they can all be tucked into a garden bed during or after flowering, and expected to return every year as a hardy flowering perennial plant. After all flower buds have opened and the look of the plant has completed its service, cut the stems back about half way and plant into a less conspicuous bed or border. Requirements are full to part sun and good soil drainage for a plant that will return for many years.
Or, be like me, and when the mum has faded, chuck it into the compost and move on to pansies for super long lasting cool season color. Have an “Extreme Autumn” and enjoy the harvest and abundant fall color!