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by Pernell Gerver

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"Growing the Many Different Truly Hardy Mums"

Hardy mums are popular fall-blooming plants. Unfortunately, sometimes they are not as hardy as we'd like. There are some truly hardy mums, however, that come back reliably year after year and get bigger and better every year.

In recent years, there has been a lot of work done with improving the hardiness of chrysanthemums (now reclassified as dendranthema, botanically, but still "mums" to most gardeners). The University of Minnesota has had an ongoing mum breeding program since the 1920s and in the last five years has introduced a series of truly hardy mums called the "My Favorite" series.

The mum varieties in this series are hardy to zone 3 (winter minimum temperature of -40F). Truly hardy mums, these varieties grow between one and three feet high and wide and form a spherical shape at maturity. They get their handsome shape with no pinching or pruning. The plants are completely covered with flowers when in bloom, forming perfect cushions of color. Their flowers are frost tolerant so they have extended bloom periods beyond most mums.

'Autumn Red' My Favorite mumThere are five varieties in the "My Favorite" series of hardy mums. 'Autumn Red' bears maroon, single, daisy-like flowers with a bright-golden-yellow center. The single flowers begin blooming in late September and continue into October. They withstand frost and will continue blooming until a hard freeze, giving them one of the longest bloom periods of any mum. This variety has a mature size of three feet high and as wide.

'Yellow Quill' My Favorite mum'Yellow Quill' is another "My Favorite" mum. It has single yellow flowers with spoon-tipped, quilled petals that surround a golden-yellow center. It forms a handsome plant three feet high and spreads to nearly four feet wide with maturity. It blooms in early to mid autumn and is colorful for weeks.

'Coral' "My Favorite" mum"My Favorite" 'Coral' bears coral-pink flowers that are semi double with several rows of coral petals surrounding a golden-yellow center. This variety grows to three feet high and nearly four feet wide at maturity. It's a well-branched variety and a very prolific bloomer. It begins blooming in early to mid autumn and continues blooming for weeks.


Dendranthema 'Sheffield' is truly a "hardy" mum. It comes back reliably year after year. It's also one of the last plants to bloom in my garden. It bears single, salmon-pink, daisy-like flowers on stems that can grow to three feet tall. The flowers begin blooming in late October and have been in bloom in my garden as late as Thanksgiving. It will be in bloom long after frost has claimed the annuals and most of the other perennials. It combines nicely with the other autumn-blooming perennials and extends the bloom season well into fall.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Silica Gel the Best Method to Preserve Blue Hydrangea Flowers"


Q. My blue hydrangea has bloomed beautifully this year but I cannot seem to find a way to cut the blossoms and dry them. Can you suggest a way to dry the blossoms for a permanent display?

A. The best way I've found to preserve blue hydrangeas is to dry them using silica gel. Silica gel is a crystal that absorbs moisture from the flower. The result is a perfectly dried flower that still retains its color and shape. You can also air dry them upside down in a dark, dry location, but they don't keep their color as well this way.

Click here to read more about silica gel and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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