But finding mums that bloom reliably is easier said than done. Mums, you see, are notorious for being short-lived plants.

By Mr. Bee

With little else flowering at this time of year, a "mum" (chrysanthemum) in full bloom is a sight for soar eyes.

But finding mums that bloom reliably is easier said than done. Mums, you see, are notorious for being short-lived plants.

Mum breeders have, however, made significant strides towards creating more long-lived mums, and as mums improve, I'm reminded of their roots.

Mums Have Far East Roots

More than 3,000 years ago, mums were considered to be so special and so lovely, they were cultivated in ancient China.

Mums were special to the ancient Chinese. But since the Chinese had little information concerning the details about how mum cultivation began, this lack of knowledge lead to centuries of speculation and lore regarding the historical roots of mums.

According to one story, for instance, a Chinese emperor searched in vain for a remote island where he was told that youth-restoring herbs grew.

Chinese legend has it, although the magic herbs were never located, a beautiful and uninhabited island was discovered. There, the first mums were supposedly found growing wild.

Subsequent to the island's discovery, mums then found their way to mainland China as sailors ventured to and from the island.

Mums

Chrysanthemums are perennials and members of the daisy family, Compositae. In bloom now, they're native to northern Africa, southern Europe and the Far East.

Somewhat daisy-like in appearance, mum flowers occur in an array of colors.

Bushy with stiff stems, mums also range in height from 18 inches to 36 inches.

Leaves are about three inches long, thick, "fuzzy" and gray-green.

Flowers as well as leaves have a distinctive and appealing aroma.

How To Grow Mums

Potted mums can be transplanted whenever soil is workable - that is, when soil isn't frozen or soggy.

Mums must also have full sun and soil that drains freely to flourish.

On the other hand, and during dry spells, mums mustn't completely dry out.

The best way to prolong the life of mums, then, is to enrich the soil and to accelerate soil drainage by adding compost or other forms organic matter to the soil.

Keeping two inches of mulch around mums is helpful, too.

It's also a good idea to purchase locally-grown mums, instead of greenhouse-grown mums. Why?

Because locally-grown mums are typically more resistant to cold and wet soil, they're also more likely to survive our severe winters.

To maximize flowering and to have bushy plants next fall, prune mums to within a few inches of the ground during May.

Removing flower buds in July will also encourage more, fall flowers.

This Week In The Garden

This summer's mild temperatures and abundant rainfall has lead to an abundance of lawn-eating, Japanese beetle grubs.

Unfortunately, this year's grubs will become next summer's adult population of Japanese beetles.

The good news is: As grubs burrow deeper into the ground to evade cold soil, lawn roots will no longer be on their menu.

The bad news is: Grubs will resurface in the spring to again feast upon lawn roots, before they turn into Japanese beetles that will take flight in search of plants to defoliate.

Insecticides that are labeled for grubs aren't especially effective this late in the growing season.

Still, applying an insecticide early in the summer that's labeled for grubs and lawns will give a gardener one more opportunity to decimate grubs before they become full-fledged Japanese beetles.

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