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Posts Tagged ‘exhibition chrysanthemums’

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Paint Box'

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Paint Box'

The tall, single-stemmed chrysanthemums you see in the Conservatory here at Longwood Gardens are quite different than the mounded shrubs loaded with small flowers that you find at your local garden center.  These are a specialty florist type and the product of hundreds of years of breeding, so they are able to reach stately heights and flower sizes. Additionally, they are not winter hardy for us in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Vegetative cuttings are taken in early summer and placed under mist to start new plants.

Vegetative cuttings are taken in early summer and placed under mist to start new plants.

The first thing to know about chrysanthemums is that they flower when day length is shorter than 12 hours. This happens naturally as we get closer to autumn. So the earlier we start our plants in the greenhouse, the more time the mum has to put on green vegetative growth before setting flower. The tallest of the single-stem mums at Longwood are ordered in as rooted cuttings, or started from cuttings of our stock plants in early June. The shorter we want the single stems to finish, the later in the summer they are started.  Our shortest single stems are started in early August.

The tall yellow mum on the left was started June 1st while the shorter orange one on the right was started July 15th.

The tall yellow mum on the left was started June 1st while the shorter orange one on the right was started July 15th.

As the mum grows, a side branch will grow at every point where a new leaf forms. All summer we remove the side branches, a process that happens at least every two weeks to ensure that they don’t rob energy from the main stem. With almost 3,000 single-stems to care for, by the time we get through all of them it’s time to start at the beginning again!

Finally in late September a cluster of flowers starts to form at the top of the stem.  At this point, side buds are removed so that all of the plant’s energy goes into forming one large flower instead of several smaller ones. The size of this final flower depends on the type of chrysanthemum. We have some incurve varieties that can produce huge flowers the size of your head!

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Houston' (Irregular Incurve)

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Houston' (Irregular Incurve)

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Hagoromo' (Irregular Incurve)

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Hagoromo' (Irregular Incurve)

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Statesman', a pompon mum grown as a single stem.

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Statesman', a pompon mum grown as a single stem.

In contrast, even with removing all of the side blooms, pompon chrysanthemums produce one tiny flower at the top of the stem.  With these it is best to let the plant do its own thing and end up with hundreds of smaller beautiful flowers.  This is also true with most garden mums.

'Statesman' again, this time allowed to grow as a multi-stemmed plant.

'Statesman' again, this time allowed to grow as a multi-stemmed plant.

By the end of October, our greenhouses are full of bright oranges, yellows, purples, and reds. The single-stems are ready for our Conservatory staff to plant in perfect rows for all to enjoy!

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Golden Splendour'

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Golden Splendour'

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Hagoromo'

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Hagoromo'

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'St. Tropez'

Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'St. Tropez'

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Some of the forms currently being grown for Longwood's 2010 Chrysanthemum Festival

Cascade chrysanthemums have long been at the heart of Longwood Gardens’ annual Chrysanthemum Festival.  Longwood grows specialty mums (Chrysanthemum x moriflorum) that originated in China and Japan and are selected for their ability to create beautiful and lasting forms.  Over the years, Longwood’s amazing show of form and color has been continually modified and refined.  Guests marvel at the captivating shapes and often ask us how we create these wonderful pieces of horticulture.  The following is meant to highlight a little behind-the-scenes action and hint at some of the spectacular forms you will see this November in our Conservatory.

Newly potted chrysanthemum cuttings in January, 2010

At two months old the mums are ready to begin training.

Beginning 15 months before the display date, the design team, in conjunction with the grower, makes final chrysanthemum cultivar choices for the following year.  Stock plants—from which we take all of our final plants—are created in order to bulk up on material.  In mid-December the final plants are started as small cuttings.  We begin heavy (more…)

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Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum on display
Longwood’s Largest Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum Ever on Display in the East Conservatory

What is it?

The Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum (known in Japan as Ozukuri) refers to a technique, originating in China and expanding to Japan several hundred years ago, for growing an extremely large Chrysanthemum, with a goal of producing the maximum number of flowers possible on a single plant.

If that doesn’t sound difficult enough, the technique also requires that there is only a single bloom on the end of each individual branch; none of the flowers on the sides of the branch is used.  And to further complicate matters, each flower must be perfectly placed in concentric horizontal rows on a dome-shaped frame!

The largest specimen recorded in Japan had over 2,200 flowers—only a few growers in the entire world have been able to produce a plant that large.

How do we do it?
First, we choose a suitable cultivar—one that has large flowers, the ability to produce long stems, can grow well under a wide range of temperature and light conditions, and the ability to produce 3-4 branches each time the stem tip is pinched. The mum variety used this year is ‘Kenbu’, a Japanese variety that produces large, white, fully double flowers on long stems.
Our grower, Yoko, started the plant from a cutting taken in July 2008, and grew the plant in a greenhouse for about 15 months, enabling it to grow large enough and produce enough stems to be shaped into a Thousand Bloom.

During winter months, when days were short, supplemental lighting was provided to prevent the plant from flowering, and to insure the stems grew long enough.  The plant was watered very carefully, fertilized frequently, and the container size was increased multiple times to provide enough space for good root growth.  Temperatures were kept as close to 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit as possible to encourage continual growth.

Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum just prior to its move to the East Conservatory

Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum just prior to its move to the East Conservatory

Yoko and her team pinched it (removing the shoot tip) periodically to cause the side branches to grow out. Every time a stem is pinched, 3-5 new branches will form below the pinch. The number of flowers on the finished specimen is dependent on the number of branches, since ultimately only one flower will bloom at the end of each branch.
In late September, the shortening day lengths caused the plant to produce flower buds.  When the flower buds are still very small, Yoko and her helpers removed the ones that formed on the sides of each branch, leaving only the bud at the end of each branch.

In mid-October, the metal frame was installed by a Dave B., a metal worker from our Maintenance Department.  The ribs and horizontal wires that create the dome shape used to hold the flowers in their proper positions was prefabricated by Dave B and his colleague Dave T.  Special wire circles are attached to each wire post to provide additional support for the flowers.  The overall frame size is determined by how long the branches are (the tips of each branch must be long enough to reach the frame) and how many branches there are.  It takes several days to install the frame.  The frame on this year’s Thousand Bloom is about 9 feet in diameter at the base.

Yoko and a member of her team at work, placing each flower into the dome-shaped frame.

Yoko and a member of her team at work, placing each flower into the dome-shaped frame.

Once the frame is in place, Yoko stopped watering the plant, allowing it to wilt slightly. This makes the stems more flexible so they can be moved easily without breaking.  She then brought together a team of four gardeners to place the flowers in their proper positions on the frame.  First, each flower is placed in a soft fabric sleeve to protect it during handling. Then, starting at the top of the frame, the flower buds are attached to the wire supports—resulting in perfectly spaced concentric rings of flowers. Once the flower buds are in place, the sleeves are removed so the flowers can fully open.
When the flower arranging was done, the Thousand Bloom was placed in its final location in the East Conservatory to be enjoyed by Longwood’s guests.

This year, Longwood has grown its largest Thousand Bloom ever—and one of the largest ever grown in the United States—featuring 718 perfect blooms and measuring more than 8 ft in diameter! This magnificent chrysanthemum is on display now through November 22.

Longwood would like to thank Japanese Master Growers Mr. Katsuo Ito, Mr. Minori Yusa & Mr. Tadashi Imafuku for sharing their knowledge and skills with us and helping us to produce our classic mum forms.

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