Looking After Chrysanthemums: Protecting Flowers
Towards the end of July the plants will stop growing and need to be staked more securely to face the high winds which often blow in August and September. Give extra staking to border plants, but make it as unobtrusive as possible. If the plants are being grown for cut blooms, support each stem firmly enough to prevent the blooms from touching either theor each other in a strong wind.
PROTECTING THE FLOWERS
According to variety, the plants will bloom in August and continue until the end of September. There is no need to protect sprays of chrysanthemums growing in the border from the weather; any damage that is done will scarcely be noticed among the mass of colour they produce.
But some of the larger blooms repay trouble taken to reduce weather hazards. It is said that all modern varieties have to be coddled and covered to bloom in safety. This is untrue. Most of the varieties recommended in the lists that follow will come through severe weather with very little damage, and some of them are hardy enough to stand almost any weather conditions. An indication of weather-resisting qualities is given in the lists.
Some of the loveliest of modern out-door chrysanthemums, however, particularly incurving types and white ones, do need covering to protect the blooms from rain and soot-laden air. The blooms can be as fine as those produced under glass in November, but the price of such excellence is sometimes a slight loss of hardiness.
Protection is best given either by polythene or by paper bags.
Fit heavy-grade polythene on light wooden frameworks and secure them a foot or so above the plants, just as the buds begin to open and show their true colour. Well-made frames will last for years, and can serve also as extra frame lights in spring. Polythene cover may be used for all colours of chrysanthemums, for most of the light passes through it and there is little or no bleaching, even of the most delicate tints.
Paper bags are suitable only for white and yellow blooms, since those of most other colours lose character and intensity when thus protected. For instance, a bronze flower enclosed in a paper bag will probably turn out amber or yellow.
Use special bags of greaseproof paper secured at one side with waterproof glue; they are quite cheap and easily obtainable. It is better (though not essential) to use two bags, one inside the other, for each bloom.
Wait until the bud begins to open and show the true colour of the bloom. Then give it a thorough spray against pests, and make sure it has dried again completely before it is covered. Once the bud has been enclosed it cannot be inspected, so write the date on the outer bag; the flower inside will be ready to cut for the house about three weeks later.
Soften with water a few inches of the open ends of the two bags (placed one inside the other), then blow them up like a balloon. Place this ‘balloon’ over the bud and secure the open ends firmly to the stem with two twists or, less handily, two ties of string, about l in. apart. The ‘balloon’ should be so placed that the bud is at its centre. As the wetted part of the bags dries out it becomes rigid and thus supports them firmly in the correct position. The advantage of using the double bag is that, although the outer one absorbs rain and becomes limp, the inner one remains dry, retains its shape and preserves free space round the developing bud.
Chrysanthemums that are to be covered in order to get first-quality blooms should, of course, be grown in some in-conspicuous spot. Both bags and polythene on frames are too unsightly for the main garden.
CUTTING THE BLOOMS
Chrysanthemum blooms will last in the house for at least three weeks if they are cut in the following manner:
Choose blooms that are about three-quarters out, with a firm centre still to open. Cut them in the morning while the stems are full of sap, and bruise the ends of the stems with a hammer. Stand them in deep water, preferably in a tub in which the water level is some 6 to 9 in. below the flower itself. Place the container in a cool place such as a garage for 24 hours before bringing the flowers into the house.