Sonia Uyterhoeven is the NYBG’s Gardener for Public Education.
Korean mums were first hybridized (bred) in Connecticut in the 1930s by a nurseryman named Alex Cummings. He was working on hybridizing cold-hardy varieties that would flourish in New England temperatures. A tall plant–a wild species he mistakenly identified as Chrysanthemum coreanum–fell into his hands and the results were the lavish Korean mums you see planted today in both our Jane Watson Irwin Perennial Garden and the Home Gardening Center.
The chrysanthemum that Cummings was working with turned out to be Chrysanthemum sibiricum, a wild mum with white-pink daisies, vigorous growth, and good branching. This species is also native to Korea, so the popular name of “Korean mum” is correct. Korean hybrids tend to be four feet tall with spectacular, daisy-like flowers that come in a wide range of colors, from pale yellow and dusty pink to burnt-orange and fiery red.
At The New York Botanical Garden, we have a selection program for the Korean mums. Each year we grow a wide variety of Korean mums in a kaleidoscope of colors. In the Perennial Garden, we group them as separate colors–a selection of red mums in the hot room, pink in the cool room–paired beautifully with fall shrubs and perennials to create vibrant autumnal displays.
We are celebrating the fall this year with Fall Flowers of Japan in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. As you walk into the Conservatory you are greeted by color, ranging from the blues and purples of gentians, to the autumnal bronzes, yellows, and reds of chrysanthemums.
Texture and form abound; the orchid-like flowers of toad lilies (Tricyrtis) are speckled, Japanese anemones (Anemone) feature cup-shaped flowers and fuzzy seed heads, and Japanese burnet (Sanguisorba) provide height with their burgundy bottle brush spires.
For the opening weekend I conducted a demonstration on how to recreate a little piece of Fall Flowers of Japan at home in the form of a fall container display or border. Today I am going to share some of my favorite plants for making a display of this nature with you.