Mums & Asters

by Sandy Swegel

It’s Fall in Colorado and the most colorful gardens are the shelves at the hardware store garden centers.  Thousands of mums are for sale. I’m not that fond of the one-on-each-side of the front door look, but I do like to get the small 4 in and 6 in containers and plant them here and there in the garden where things look drab.

You’ve probably figured out that those mums you’re planting this year will never look the same as they do today.  They’ll be taller for one thing….so if it’s a permanent planting, take that into account when you choose their spot.  They’ll also be sprawlier, which is a good thing in my book.  They look a bit too controlled and tidy if you ask me. Much too alien from my garden which is not controlled and tidy.

Do you know the history of your mum? Most likely it started back in June or July when three plant plugs were evenly placed into your 6-inch pot. They had ideal indoor growing conditions with fertilization for bloom…and the part that makes them most distinctive…regular applications of growth inhibitors that keep them short and stocky for that perfect Fall round look.  By next year, the growth inhibitor has long since worn off and no matter how much you cut them back by the Fourth of July, they won’t be so compact.  Which I think is a good thing as you can see in the garden picture of the orange and yellow and red mums I planted two years ago.

If you like more of a wildflower look in your garden, go with asters.  You’ll probably have to plant them from seed because they aren’t sold commercially as much as mums.  But the reward is they’ll reseed themselves (usually not too aggressively) and their flowers will be light and airy and move with the breeze in the Fall sun.

 
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