The pincushion shape of the mum 'Illusion' makes a striking contrast with the vertical leaves and willowy seed heads of fountain grass. Mums offer an exuberant end to the gardening season.
Photo/Illustration: Chris Curless
As the days of summer grow shorter and cooler, fall chrysanthemums burst into bloom for a grand finale to the garden year. In rich shades of russet, purple, deep red, soft pink or glowing gold, the flowers of garden mums offer a glorious complement to the bounty of the harvest and the vivid foliage of fall.
Mums (Dendranthema grandiflora, formerly Chrysanthemum morifolium) have been grown in gardens for hundreds of years, but only in the last decade have breeders concentrated on making them better plants for the home garden, rather than for the cut-flower industry. Mums for landscape use are often called garden mums.
Ever since I first grew them, mums have been part of my home gardens and my work. Their variations of color and form sparked my interest when I was 16 years old, and I've grown many mums since. Now my work takes me all over the U.S. and Canada, where I can see first-hand how different cultivars fare.
Garden mums offer a style to fit almost any garden. Plant them anywhere that cries out for a spectacular splash of color. They extend the gardening season for weeks, thrive across most of the country and their cultural needs are simple.
Many gardeners are accustomed to thinking of mums as annuals. It is easy to grow them as annuals, but with some planning, they also can be successfully overwintered in cold climates for year after year of bloom.