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The chrysanthemum: a flavorful flower.

For all the variety of the chrysanthemum, the genus shares a few things. They are all beautiful, fragrant, useful, and make elegant, long-lasting arrangements for around the home. All this, and it's only a plant cousin to the common daisy!

But don't let its roots (family, that is) fool you. The Orientals didn't let it stop them. They recognized the handsome flowers for what they were. And for over 2,000 years they were cultivated by Oriental specialists. They produced most of the basic types--and the Japanese even made the plant a personal emblem of the emperor, calling it Ki-Ku (Queen of the East).

Europeans were the ones to give chrysanthemums their common name: it means "golden flower." Perhaps its early autumn blooms reminded them of the passing golden season. Whatever the reason for the chrysanthemum's Popularity, then and now, there are many interesting, unusual blooms to choose from... something for everyone.

A few of these blooms are:

Pompon: with blossoms one and one-half to two inches across, blooming in clusters throughout fall.

Quill-flowered: three to five inch flowers with tubular petals, closed at the tip to resemble quills. Blooms in late fall.

Spider: Sometimes called Fuji, having unique petals; long, arching, and curved upward at the tips. Blooms are usually three to five inches across.

Mums are deemed one of the easiest of the fall flowers to grow. My experience is that if I happen to drop a start on the ground, I'll soon find it spreading all over the place.

But they do have their particular needs. For late bloom, all you need do is pinch buds back in summer. Mums are heavy feeders and benefit with a yearly surround of compost. Don't plant them in soggy soil, but they don't bloom well if they have been dry in the heat of the summer -- so keep them pleasantly moist, and they will do fine.

For outdoor planting, the best of the hardy chrysanthemums are the button, pompon, decorative and single-flowered kinds. If you are a busy gardener, You might choose the cushion or dwarf mums, as they need no pinching. In fall, mulch with leaves or straw, or place an inverted basket over them, something airy, to ensure survival from freezing temperatures.

With a little common sense gardening, you should have starts to take from this plant to trade or give to friends, or maybe expand the plant to a border along your garden's edge. When you have an abundance, you might even add them to your fall menu to spice up your dinner parties.

The petals of chrysanthemum have a subtle, sharp flavor, good in main dishes and salads. Sprinkle them over openfaced sandwiches, add to soups and stews, or dry the petals and powder them to color butter, custards, rice or any other dishes. It's best to try it out on something easy, such as the sandwiches or soups, before you use the petals for a fancy dinner with guests. As you become familiar with the flavor, you will then find yourself experimenting with the amount to use for your taste, and you'll find yourself bursting with ideas for what to add it to.

Yes, this relative of the daisy has brought itself up in the world, and the mum can make an elegant addition to your plant family.

Carly Wall is the author of Flower Secrets Revealed: Using Flowers to Heal, Beautify, and Energize Your Life, A.R.E. Press.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Wall, Carly
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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