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Use mums to give instant fall colors
One the benefits of being a gardener is that most of the time, I’m paying attention to what’s going on in the landscape and beyond. I’ve found that Mother Nature gives us clues, especially around the seasonal transitions.
There are subtle clues that summer is ending and fall is beginning. Red maples start to show tinges of reds and oranges. Each tree is different, but there is one red maple in my neighborhood that always starts to change before any others.
Another change in the landscape color palette is the arrival of mums in the nurseries and garden centers.
Some home gardeners may resist purchasing this month, as many summer annuals that were looking rough after a long, hot summer may be catching a second wind with the cooling weather. And, while I’m all for planting fall-color annuals early, they may not be quite ready yet. So consider fall mums as a bridge crop. Their colorful potential will put on an easy and reliable display for our current in-between period.
Incorporating fall garden mums into the landscape is easy. There are enough warm colors available to fit into almost any home color scheme. The plants seem to have literally hundreds of flowers, so the impact is immediate.
Now is the time to start planning how and where to effectively use these plants around your home and landscape. You have a couple of options. Choosing fall mums in full flower gives an instant impact for any autumn event. While beautiful, in my opinion, a mum in full bloom is like a shooting star -- bright and glorious, but only for the briefest time.
For a longer, more prolonged landscape show, select plants that still have tight buds and are just starting to show color. This choice increases the period of showy display as the buds begin to open in the garden.
My favorite way to use fall garden mums is to display them in containers on the front porch or back patio.
When combined with a decorative ceramic container, their visual impact can be dramatic. There is no need to transplant; just slip the mum, container and all, into the larger pot. If you are worried about the weight of some ceramic pots, there are fabulous foam and plastic pots that really look like their heavier cousins.
A word of caution is needed: Always keep the containers consistently moist. If the containers dry out, the flower show quickly fades away.
Fall mums are treated as seasonal annuals to be removed when the flowers have faded and replaced with the next season’s flowers. But have you considered transplanting them into your garden when their flowers fade? Most of our fall mums have been bred for their colors and may not be cold hardy, even in coastal Mississippi.
Several years ago, I transplanted a range of gorgeous colors into my garden and only a purple variety over wintered successfully. But I think transplanting them into the garden is worthwhile, since you were going to compost the plants anyway.
Try planting them in a raised bed for the better soil drainage in the winter months. After the first freeze, cut the stems back and mulch with a layer of pine straw. Next spring, pull the pine straw away and see what emerges from a long winter’s rest.