The beautiful chrysanthemum is the Flower of the Month for November in the United States. In China it represents cheerfulness. In Australia it is a popular Mother’s Day gift. But in Japan and France and New Orleans the white mum is a symbol of death and is often used at funerals.
At the October meeting of Great Bend Garden Club, Alice Young delighted the thirteen members present with surprising facts about chrysanthemums- the beautiful fall flowers that color our flower beds this time of year. Named by using the Greek words for “Golden flower” chrysanthemums were first grown in China where by the year 1516 there were 500 cultivars. They spread throughout the rest of Asia and eventually became the royal emblem of the Emperor of Japan. They came to America from England in 1798 when a Colonel John Stevens imported a variety called Dark Purple.
Today there are two types of mums: early blooming garden (pot) mums which have smaller blossoms, and floral mums which grow larger on long stems and are slower blooming. There are a wide variety shapes and colors of floral mums including spider mums and those that look like peonies or daisies.
Mum flowers have been used in unusual ways. The Chinese use yellow white chrysanthemum to improve the aroma of the broth in their delicacy snake oil soup. The Japanese steep the blooms into a mild herbal tea which calms the stomach. (Alice provided the Garden Club members with teabags of the Japanese chrysanthemum tea and it is very soothing!) The blossoms are also used as garnishes in many cuisines. An extract from chrysanthemums called pyrethrin is used in a garden insecticide.
Growing chrysanthemums requires soil in full sun with fertilizer and moisture. Alice recommended Osmacote, a slow- release flowering plant fertilizer. Placing plants 18” apart is recommended as is pruning them back in the middle of the summer. One Garden Club member offered the rule of thumb: “Four inches high by the Fourth of July.” Mums need to be cut back before the winter season and covered with a light mulch or a mound of soil. They can be divided when new growth begins to appear in the Spring.
During the business meeting conducted by President Nancy Williams, Alice Young reported that Barry Bowers has completed our yearly report to the IRS. It was decided to hire Tammi Wagner to do the spring clean-up of the Rose Garden and then plan for work days throughout the summer to keep up with the maintenance.
Discussion concerning keeping the Garden Club meetings, programs, and activities more in the public eye led to the suggestion that The Tribune be contacted about inclusion in the Breakfast Briefings and the Club Calendar. Suggestions also included creating a Garden Club web page or a site on Facebook to perhaps encourage individuals including younger members of the community to consider joining Garden Club. New members are always welcome and are invited to visit the 10:00 a.m. meetings on the third Thursday of each month at the Barton County Extension Office meeting room.
Delicious refreshments were provided by Darlene Boley The next meeting will be on Thursday morning Nov. 16 with Iva Behrens as hostess and Pam Sweeney giving the program.