What can I say about chrysanthemums?" I asked my daughter.
"It's my birth flower," she said. "You can write about me."
It's not that I didn't believe her, but I had to look it up and sure enough, November's flower is chrysanthemum, the flower that seems to be the center of attention this time of year.
The gardeners I know have very definite opinions on planting what we commonly call "hardy mums." There are gardeners who hate the plant and won't have them in their landscape, and there are others, like me, who love the flower and can't seem to get enough.
My first experience with hardy mums came the year I was married. My aunt, in an effort to help me add color to my yard, gave me a large bunch of dark red mums.
"Put these in the ground, and they will come up every year," she said.
My aunt had a way with flowers. She could plant anything anywhere and it would grow and thrive.
"Just push it in the ground with your thumb," she said, while doing just that to a tender young sprout. Within weeks, there were flowers blooming from the small start that once sat in a jar of water on her windowsill. Sometimes she would pinch a leaf off of a succulent she saw in someone's yard and pin it to her kitchen curtain. Soon there were tiny white roots growing off the leaf stem, not even needing water or soil. She could work wonderful magic with plants.
So I did just what she said with the chrysanthemums, planting them along the front of my house. Long before azaleas or juniper shrubs, there were chrysanthemums. They were the first flower I ever planted at my house, and my aunt's magic touch must have come along with the plants because they grew and bloomed every year.
Even when I eventually planted those azaleas and juniper shrubs, the mums continued to grow and bloom for several years, a tall row of dark red flowers against the white background of the house after all the other flowers had been killed by frost.
Eventually they grew tired and stopped showing up, but by then I had gained a little more experience with growing things and soon replaced them with clematis vines, roses and other things.
But I still plant mums in the front of the house. I know now that I should trim them back to about six inches tall every month until mid-July. This keeps them compact, because otherwise they grow tall and lanky and by the time they bloom in September, the heavy flowers pull the stems down. Maybe this is why some gardeners hate mums. Maybe they don't know they are supposed to trim them.
Since my aunt gave me the mums nearly 40 years ago, their popularity has increased, which in turn has prompted growers to cultivate more varieties. Now mums can be found in practically all shades of red, lavender, pink, salmon, rusty orange and bright yellow. There even is a lime green variety called 'Kermit' cultivated by a company in England.
There are nine varieties of chrysanthemum; Quill with tubular flowers, Daisy, Decorative, Buttons, Pompom, Spoon, Cushions, Spider and Anemone. All have their own unique characteristics.
Their fragrance is not exactly sweet and is thought to repel some insects. The plant also has been used medicinally to relieve head congestion and settle an upset stomach.
I'm glad the chrysanthemum is my daughter's birth flower. It is said this flower brings happiness and laughter to the home, and my daughter has always done exactly that.
In addition to November's birth flower, chrysanthemum is also the flower of the 13th wedding anniversary. This year, my husband and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. That's three times the good luck of chrysanthemums. Not bad at all.