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Count on mums for that fall wow factor

Canadian horticulturalist Denise Hodgins  discusses adding colour to your fall garden with mums and other plants.

The weather this summer has been all over the place. If it’s not super hot then it’s raining. I just returned home after being away for a few days and found my planters looking pretty sad.

So off to the garden centre I went to find something to spruce them up and to my good fortune the fall mums are ready. They may not be showing a whole lot of colour now but in the next few days or week or two they will be in full show and continue to produce flowers right until it snows.

I’m often asked if fall mums are the same as perennial mums. The answer is yes and no. With all the new colours and sizes and shapes of blooms in the Chrysanthemums we have managed to breed out their ability to winter over and come back year after year. I treat mums as an annual and enjoy them for a season and throw them out after they finish blooming, but I do know gardeners who have success wintering the mums over in their garden for a couple of years.

For those of you that want to try their hand at wintering over mums I suggest planting them as early as possible so they’re able to get their roots established before the ground begins to cool and eventually freeze. Then heavy mulching is required to get them through the winter.

But for those of us who want to give our planters and container gardens a facelift, mums represent fall with a rainbow of colour including shades of gold, bronze, orange as well as burgundy and purple. But remember many other plants will perform equally as well in the fall such as asters, kale, cabbage, ornamental grasses and even coleus.

This time of year I might just pull out the petunias and begonias that have passed their prime and add in a couple of mums to give the planters a facelift.  With other pots I may decide I have had enough and replace the whole planter with an extra-large mum to make a real wow at my front door.

Your fall planters, just like your summer annuals, are going to require watering often. I suspect that we will have many more warm days before things begin to cool off so water every day or so.


Q: We have a lot of perennials, grasses and shrubs in gardens that we have put about 12.5 centimtres of new mulch around this year. How do we fertilize through that much mulch? We usually use a granular fertilizer but maybe that’s not the best here.

A: When trying to fertilize through mulch you need to provide enough water to wash the fertilizer down through the mulch and into the soil where the roots are. I like to use a water-soluble fertilizer but granular will also work, it just requires more water to wash it down to the roots. I often put down granular fertilizer late in the fall so when the snow melts in the spring the fertilizer dissolves and reaches the roots. I use water-soluble fertilizer during the summer months. But the bottom line is whatever you do the plants will be better for it.

About the author: Denise Hodgins

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