When the morning temperatures turn chilly and the air smells of dried leaves, I get the overwhelming urge to buy chrysanthemums. The summer annuals on the porch are running out of steam and being threatened by the first frosts anyway. Luckily, garden centers, like Johnson’s Gardens in Cedarburg, are filled with the jewel tones of fall garden mums. They are plentiful, relatively inexpensive, and available in glorious shades of autumn.
When feverishly loading them into your shopping cart, choose ones that still have plenty of tight buds to extend the blooming period in your yard. If I’m feeling lazy, I just plop an extra-large container of mums, straight off the shelf, into my landscape beds, no shovel needed. However, the labeling of “Hardy Mums” can be misleading. These Chrysanthemums have spent the entire summer in a greenhouse, their tips being pinched back to create a bushy appearance. If you plant them early enough in fall they might have enough time to root before the ground freezes and survive the winter; unless we have a really cold winter and/or not enough snow cover. Then you’ll surely be buying more next year. Even if they do survive, you’ll need to keep pinching and pruning the buds until July to keep them looking tidy.
If you want to avoid this hamster wheel of fall color hassle, consider planting perennial mums – winter hardy chrysanthemums – in the landscape beds instead. Johnson’s Nursery carries 5 of the Mammoth® Series (Chrysanthemum x hybrida), introduced by the University of Minnesota. Like most plants coming out of Minnesota, they are very cold tolerant and have a much better chance of surviving winter than their less expensive counterparts. Even better, they have been bred so you don’t have to pinch them back during the summer for a bushy appearance. Nestle a pumpkin next to your perennial mums for the perfect harvest time landscape.