Colour me beautiful: Chrysanths in the borders can brighten the darkest of days
- Nigel Colborn says November is a wonderful time for late chrysanthemums
- UK-based gardening expert copied his dad, growing exhibition varieties as a kid
- Reveals exhibition varieties have garden value but need hands-on management
November is hardly a month for lingering outside, but it’s a wonderful time for late chrysanthemums.
N ‘Chrysanths’ awful abbreviation, but anything’s better than the American version ‘mums’ are border varieties. Like many hardy perennials, they’re clump-forming and great for cutting. The earliest open in late July, but the latest can provide cut flowers for Christmas. Unlike florists’ varieties which need fussing over, these are undemanding.
Border chrysanths are the most popular. But they’re one group among many. Exhibition or cutting varieties also have garden value. But they need hands-on management.
As a weird kid, I copied my dad who grew exhibition varieties. I’d watched him disbudding them regularly to achieve outsize flowers atop rigid stems. He grew them in ex-army ammunition boxes, perhaps hoping they’d explode into colour.
Pretty in pink: Chrysanthemum Clara Curtis is easy to propagate and resists the cold
From October onwards huge blooms with that ‘Christmassy’ smell dominated every room. Cut-flower varieties like those are fiddly, but not difficult to grow. They can follow tomatoes in a greenhouse.
They’re grown from cuttings taken in spring. You can buy those, ready-rooted from specialists such as woolmans.com. For more information, visit nationalchrysanthemum society.co.uk.
YEARS OF JOY
Border chrysanthemums are much easier. Flowers appear from late July with single pink Clara Curtis to late November with deep red Duchess of Edinburgh or tall, pink Emperor of China. Most varieties, even those with single flowers, are excellent cutting and last well in water. Fully hardy, they’re also long-lasting perennials, blooming year after year.
The flowers are usually small to medium-sized, but always produced in abundance. That makes them great for floral arrangements and more durable for life outdoors.
Although garden centres may stock a few, it’s best to buy chrysanthemum plants from specialist nurseries. Woolmans offer five hardy border varieties for £11.45. Those would be sent to you next spring. Be careful to order fully hardy varieties.
Old favourites such as deep red Duchess of Edinburgh or early blooming, single pink Clara Curtis are bone-hardy. So are Korean varieties such as pink Anastasia and dusky rose Dr Tom Parr. Plants like those can be grown in containers.
LIFT AND DIVIDE
Florists’ versions are usually started each year from cuttings. You can buy those ready-rooted in May. But with a greenhouse you can raise your own.
To do that, lift mature plants in autumn. Move them into a greenhouse, planting them in deep trays or large pots. Keep them moist, though not soaked, through winter. Shoots will appear in spring.
Those can be taken as cuttings, severed at soil level. They’ll root quickly, especially with bottom heat. When potting up rooted cuttings, seek advice from a gardening book or the National Chrysanthemum Society.
Hardy border chrysanthemums are much easier to propagate. When they age, lift and divide plants in spring.