Favorite Flora: Chrysanthemums

An ancient flower wows modern gardeners

See what modern mums have to offer

20141025_115436 “If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow Chrysanthemums.” (A Chinese philosopher)

By Teresa Woodard

This Chinese philosopher certainly would smile if he saw how widespread these “mums” have become as the darling of today’s fall floral displays. In fact, I recently was one of thousands visiting the popular Chrysanthemum Festival at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. Inside Longwood’s four-acre conservatory, more than 80,000 chrysanthemum blooms are nurtured and trained into inspiring forms, including shields, spirals, cascades, balls, and even a 10-foot tall yellow chandelier. IMG_1442The crown jewel of the display was the Thousand Bloom Mum—featuring more than 1,500 perfectly arranged flowers—the largest of its kind grown outside of Asia.

Gaining more respect for this mass-marketed fall favorite, I recently visited the National Chrysanthemum Society’s website to learn more about this plant’s rich history. Check out these fun facts:

  • First Mum — The chrysanthemum was first cultivated in China as a flowering herb and is described in writings as early as the 15th Century B.C.IMG_3981
  • Imperial Blossom — Around the 8th century A.D., the chrysanthemum appeared in Japan. So taken were the Japanese with this flower that they adopted a single flowered chrysanthemum as the crest and official seal of the Emperor. Japan also celebrate a National Chrysanthemum Day, called the Festival of Happiness.IMG_3987
  • Winning the West — The chrysanthemum was first introduced into the Western world during the 17th Century. In 1753 Karl Linnaeus, founder of modern taxonomy, combined the Greek words chrysos, meaning gold with anthemon, meaning flower. They belong to the Compositae, or daisy family.
  • New Colors, Forms — In more recent times, growers within several countries began to propagate chrysanthemums. Hybridizers in England, France, Japan, and the United States have developed a wide range of floral colors, shapes, and sizes. Today’s colors include pink, purple, red, yellow, bronze, orange, white and bi-color variations.IMG_3982
  • Keeping Track — To help with identification, the National Chrysanthemum Society developed a classification system with 13 classes ranging from the large “football” mums to spider-shaped blooms to the classic potted mums. Some of these chrysanthemum cultivars can be trained into different forms as showcased at annual displays at Longwood Gardens, New York Botanical Garden and Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile, Al.

Children’s Books Plant Seeds

By Teresa Woodard

With this week’s launch of Joanna Gaines’ book “We Are the Gardeners,” I’m reminded of the joys of reading garden-themed picture books. Their beautiful illustrations and engaging stories appeal to kids of all ages – including big kids like me. As a bonus, these books often weave in valuable life lessons like patience and environmental stewardship as well as more practical ones like seed planting and tending soil. Here are 14 favorites (including three additions from Deb) to enjoy with your own children and grandchildren. They also make great gifts.

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

Author and illustrator Lois Ehlert of Milwaukee, WI, draws in readers with her colorful paper collage illustrations. Her rainbow of flowers entices readers to plant their own colorful cutting garden.   Other favorites by Ehlert include Leaf Man, Growing Vegetable Soup, Eating the Alphabet, Waiting for Wings and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (illustrated by Ehlert and written by Bill Martin Jr.).

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carl

While many are familiar with Eric Carl’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar about a caterpillar’s journey and transformation to a butterfly, his lesser known The Tiny Seed illustrates another life cycle – one of a flower through the adventures of a tiny seed.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein teaches the value of giving from the perspective of a tree that gives and gives sacrificially to a young boy throughout his life.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum, the mouse heroine of this story, loved her name until she started school and her classmates teased her about being named after a flower.  She eventually meets her music teacher Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle and suddenly blossoms.

The Secret Garden
An unlikely trio of children — an orphan girl, a nature-loving local boy and a spoiled boy in a wheelchair — make friends in a Yorkshire mansion’s abandoned garden where their friendship grows as they transform the garden.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear – by Don and Audrey Wood

I’m always growing or harvesting local strawberries and even worked a summer on a strawberry farm, so I fell in love with Little Mouse who does all he can to save his strawberry from the Big, Hungry Bear, even if it means sharing it with the reader. Other berry-loving books include Jamberry by Bruce Degen and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Based on a true story, Alice Rumphius or the “Lupine Lady,” strives to make the world a more beautiful place by scattering lupine seeds everywhere she goes along the coast of Maine.

Curious Gardner by Peter Brown

I’m moved by this young boy Liam’s quest for a greener world, one garden at a time. While out exploring one day, he discovers a struggling garden and decides to care for it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.

Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole

Come to the garden that Jack planted. With each new page, readers are introduced to more and more garden treasures — seeds and seedlings, buds and leaves, and eventually flowers and the birds, bugs and butterflies they attract.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

Messner shares the hidden world beneath the garden and its soil teaming with insects, water, nutrients and plant roots. Readers will gain a new appreciation of soil’s valuable role in the garden throughout the seasons.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

This delightful story shares the hope of a young boy. When he plants a carrot seed, everyone tells him it won’t grow. But he faithfully waters his seed, pulls the weeds, and waits… until a carrot plant triumphantly emerges.

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork

This is a delightful introduction to Monet, Impressionism and Giverny for pre-teens and older. For younger children use it more like a picture book and skip most of the text. An older book, it can be found at used book stores and in the library.

There’s a Hair in My Dirt by Gary Larson

When your teenager says that he or she doesn’t read kid’s books, hand over this dark, comedic tale of nature and the assumptions we make about how it all works. A tale of caution is told by Father Worm to little worm and the tale’s ending has a twist. This book should be required reading for every biology student. Warning: this is Gary Larson and there are one or two off-color words in the captions.

Tales of Peter Rabbit and His Friends by Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter’s beloved stories are packaged many ways. You can find anthologies and sets of small books – great for little hands – of the individual stories. Whichever form you choose, be sure to check that they are illustrated by Beatrix Potter. Her charming animal figures beautifully accompany her short, sweet vignettes that relate the lessons of life. These are stories that stay with you for your whole life.

Autumn Jewels II

Aut Flw Tricyrtis hirta Sinonome10-6-15By Debra Knapke

I’ve often heard the complaint that autumn is dull, and all we have is mums and pumpkins.  Well, I recently went searching for jewels in my autumn garden and found not only jewels, but a plentiful array of flowers.  Below is a glimpse of these treasures.

Aut FlwTricyrtis macrantha close 10-6-15 resize Aut FlwTricyrtis macrantha plant 10-6-15 resizeThis weeping toadlily, Tricyrtus micrantha, is a rare jewel in a Central Ohio garden. In my garden since 2007, it has been a shy bloomer. But my patience was rewarded this year with this gorgeous display of 1 ½” golden bells.

Aut Flw Tricyrtis hirta Sinonome 2 10-6-15The more typical flower form of a toadlily is an open six-pointed star with six stamens (male reproductive structures) fused to a six-lobed pistil (female reproductive structure). If you look closely at the buds and stems you can see how Tricyrtis hirta became known as the hairy toadlily.

Aut Flw Tropaeolum majus Alaska Mix 10-6-15Aut Flw borage 10-6-15I do not have Michael’s zinnias, but this nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus ‘Alaska Mix’) offers a zing of orange which contrasts beautifully with its variegated leaves. An added bonus: the flower petals and leaves are edible. Borage (Borago officinalis) offers another edible flower; imagine a cool whisper of cucumber flavor. The blue flower is also a complimentary color to the orange nasturtium flower. I often plant them together as I find it to be a pleasing color combination.

Aut Flw Aster laevis Bluebird bumble 10-6-15The smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’) is one of many asters in my garden. Asters supply food to bees, butterflies and later, birds. Two asters I can’t show you, since they don’t bloom until late October.  Perhaps, a last drink for pollinators?

Aut Flw Heuchera villosa Bronze Wave 10-6-15Our beautiful native Heuchera villosa and its cultivars (above is ‘Bronze Wave’) have become one of my favorite shade to part shade plants. Tolerant of dry shade once it is established, it offers a bold foliage effect and long-lasting flowers that bloom in August until frost. The inflorescences are so heavy that they gracefully bend and intermingle with other plants. Watch for hummers when heucheras are in bloom.

Aut Flw Chrysanthemum Mei Kyo 10-6-15Last, but certainly not least, are the hardy mums. This is an old hybrid, Chrysanthemum ‘Mei Kyo’, which has graced my garden for 20 years. Its flowers are just starting to open. I will have flowers to bring inside until a hard frost sends this mum “to bed”.

Aut Flw anaemone 10-7-15Where are the beautiful hybrid anemones that often grace an autumn garden? Well, in my garden the buds and flowers have become choice edibles for my herd of deer. I did not protect the flowers so I have beautiful leaves and naked stems adorned with a few seedheads of flowers that got away.

‘Wishing you a beautiful and creative fall!

Hello, Fall!

20140927_092612_AndroidLooking for some fall gardening inspiration?  Well, check out some of the season’s best posts on Heartland Gardening:



Lily Fest: July 10-12

Travelogue: Lily Fest 2015

By Debra Knapke and Teresa Woodard

Debra’s observations:

Undaunted, Teresa negotiated Little Cola Road, a narrow road that was purported to be a two lane road on the last leg of our trip to Lily Fest 2015 near Logan in Ohio’s scenic Appalachia country. Fortunately, most cars were going to Lily Fest, so we had few passing encounters. When we left, we had many more passing encounters. I’m not fond of tiny cars, but I would have greatly appreciated being in a Smart car!

After parking, we walked down the path with our guide Sheri Quick. Sheri not only led us to Lily Fest, but she introduced us to Bobbi Bishop. She and her late husband Bruce started Lily Fest in 1992 as a small event to show off their gardens. Bruce’s spirit still guides the festival, and his gardens are an inspiration to Midwest gardeners.

So, what did I find exciting?

Daylilies of every kind! My current favorite type is the spider form. Below is a spider-form daylily peeking through the leaves of a variegated giant reed grass (Arundo donax ‘Variegata’)IMG_6854


The gardens are a tapestry of green punctuated by blooms and varied-colored leaves. The bursts of color are balanced by the calming textural contrasts as evidenced below.IMG_2696 resize crop


The art! Artful pieces are scattered throughout the garden. Below is a simple composition of shovels upended in the garden and painted. It is a subtle installation.IMG_2700 crop resize


Many of the artists represented in the gardens were present in the booths that lined several pathways. I recognized some crafts people from other shows, but was happy to discover new adornments and ideas for the garden.IMG_2695 crop resize


At the end of our visit, we passed one of the ponds. Visitors were sitting on benches and listening to the soulful flute music of Mark Thunderwalker Camden while viewing this rhapsody in pink: lotus, flamingos and a dusky Japanese maple.IMG_2709 crop resize


Oh, I did find some chocolate, which is a must at any festival.IMG_6870


Teresa’s observations:

At Lily Fest, there’s a wonderful sense of community from the volunteers that helped us park cars to the greeters at the front gate to all the gardeners that volunteered for weeks prior to make the grounds so lovely.

IMG_6868Like Deb, I also appreciated the selection of juried artists including many with lily-inspired pieces — lily glass sculptures, lily stone statues and lily ironwork. IMG_6873

Lily Fest is also filled with plenty of garden whimsy from these kitschy garden pants to this charming cottage.

And, of course, we came to see the lilies!

Visit Lily Fest this weekend or check out these other upcoming Midwestern flower festivals:



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