A nice chrysanthemum

by James Alexander-Sinclair

What is it with the chrysanthemum? Not that long ago they were a stalwart of any gardener's autumn arsenal...

jas_11112008_chrysanthemumsWhat is it with the chrysanthemum? Not that long ago they were a stalwart of any gardener's autumn arsenal - not just the enormous ones that look like the rejected hats of a home counties Carmen Miranda, but also Japanese pom-pom and reliable spray chrysanths. They seem to have slipped out of fashion over here. Not so in America.

I was fortunate enough to be rumbling around New York a couple of weeks ago. The sun was glorious and the glimpses of azure blue sky amidst the skyscrapers were awe inspiring. In Central Park, the Conservatory Garden seemed a very popular venue for wedding photography. There were at least three wedding parties when we were there; one guest, I noticed, broke away and ate two large hot dogs in quick succession before rejoining his party. I don't think he was the bridegroom, but you never know. I digress, the point is the borders.

The garden was divided into three parts: an Italian-style garden with a pergola (towards which the various brides were gravitating), an English-style southern garden and the northern garden, which nodded towards the French style. The latter consisted of an oval arranged around a central pond. The surrounding borders were extraordinary: absolutely jam-packed with a fabulous array of about 2000 coloured Korean chrysanthemums. (Moderation was not an abiding principle in the design of this garden.) Some in full flower, some in bud and in every colour you can think of except blue. At the entrance chrysanthemums blended beautifully with cannas, plectranthus and a sprawling midnight-blue sage. A spectacular display.

The Korean chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum rubellum) is as tough as old boots. They were originally bred in about 1930 and can take temperatures down to about -20ºC. They grow about a metre tall and produce flower after flower until about early December. Perhaps we should be growing more of them. Good garden varieties include 'Clara Curtis' (pink), 'Emperor of China' (double pink) and 'Wedding Day' (white). You can read more about chrysanthemums here.

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Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:37

Where oh where can one get hold of korean chrysanths. Even a top seed specialist only list "mixed hybrids". Help? Anyone?