Saturday, September 29, 2007

Asters Are the New Mums

I'm never planting mums again. I mean it. I've been burned for the last time. Last fall, I bought at least a dozen hardy mums and not one, NOT ONE, made it through the winter. I was more than a little irritated.

There are florist mums, garden mums and hardy mums and I know the difference. Those charming ones you see in the grocery stores that make you stop and say, "Oh wow, how cool is that?" are indeed cool, but they don't like cold. Enjoy them as long as you can keep them alive in above-freezing temperatures, because they won't survive the winter outside. Not here in zone 5 anyway.

Cool Florist Mums -->

But those garden mums that are all over the place now? They're hardy. Yeah, right. Don't bet on it. I've had mums over the years that did last through the winters. I removed them several years ago because they were bright yellow and I don't like yellow mums. I still don't like yellow mums, but if I hadn't taken them out, at least I'd still have some.

Word on the street is that the new 'garden' mums we're seeing in the garden centers are not being bred by the hybridizers to be hardy in gardens colder than zone 6. Why didn't I hear about this last year when I was buying all of them? Some of the nurseries that sell them are no longer guaranteeing them to be hardy either. At least they're being honest about them.

So consider yourself warned.
If you still want to have perennial mums, try to get the heirloom varieties or ones that you know are bred for cold climates, like the Belgian mums. If all else fails, beg them from your friends that have had them for years. Me? I'm planting asters.

Hardy asters really are. No, there isn't the color choice like there is with mums, but there are still some pretty gorgeous hues out there. Right now I've only got two asters. One, I purchased many years ago and it has grown a lot from that teeny 4-inch pot size to a nice-sized two-foot clump now. I've even moved it a couple of times.

I just bought my second one last week. I got it at Walmart for ten dollars and though it's one plant, it's HUGE. It's a lighter shade of lavender than the purple one I already have and it absolutely pops against the dark foliage of its bedmates.
I rather doubt if I'll buy any more this fall, because last year I self-imposed a rule to not plant anything after the end of September. That way I don't risk cold weather zapping my new perennials before they've had a chance to get well-established before winter. I'm not taking any chances.

But next year, I'll be looking for some white asters, and maybe some pink ones, although I haven't yet seen a shade of pink in asters that I like. I hear there are reds, and since that's my favorite color, if I come across any of those, I'll have them.

So, farewell to mums. It was nice knowing you. Too bad you didn't feel the same about me.

Lost this one over the winter of 2005-2006.

I lost these two winters ago, too.

I'm not normally a pink mum lover, but I did like these a lot.
They've gone to that great garden in the sky.

One of the new ones from last fall. This spring? Dead.


So okay, here's a yellow one I really liked,
because it had that pretty orange eye.
Doesn't matter, though, because it died, too.

'High Regards'
Lost this one last winter.


Gina said...

hey kylee! I've never bought mums - thanks for the warning. I'm sold on Asters after seeing Jodi's beauties the other day. Can I still plant those now??

Kylee Baumle said...

Gina - There ARE mums that you can plant that are reliably hardy; just make sure that's what you're buying. I think I'd get them from a reputable garden center that really knows their stuff. That, and planting them where they'll get good drainage. And mulch them. ;-)

Sure, you can still plant asters now. I just might not only because I want to be sure that my fall planted things have enough time to get rooted down well for winter. If we have a fall season that goes late like we have had before, no problem. If winter comes early, then I don't want to lose anything, so with not that much space in the garden anyway, I can afford to wait until next year.

verobirdie said...

Kylee, your walmart aster is really hudge! I wish I would find one like that here. At the end of August I wanted to plant some. Only found tiny ones, but in full bloom. The flowers did not last, which upset me a little bit, but to my surprise they are blooming again right now, about 5 weeks after I've planted them. Very nice of them.
Mums survive winter in my garden, but one of them did not survive the lawn mower... Very stupid of me, I just did not see it. I'll replace it in a couple of weeks, when I find a pretty one, though. The other one is doing well, the buds are growing quickly.

Alice said...

You certainly had some beautiful chrysanthemums (they are never called 'mums' in Aus.). Such a pity that you lost so many. Could you not have stored them in pots over winter?

The thing I hate about them (same as with dahlias) is having to stake them up. A plant never looks natural when it's tied to a stake.

I hope your Asters do well instead.

Carol Michel said...

I have a couple of hardy mums that have come back for 4 or 5 years. I bought them from someone's kid who was selling them for a fundraiser. I had no expectations of them, still don't, so that's probably why they keep coming back.

My aunt gave me a start of a mum that she got from my grandmother, so I bet it has been around, coming back each year, for fifty years. Now that's hardy! I still have it in a pot and need to plant it somewhere special.

Asters are good, too, but your best tip on mums is to get a start from someone who you know has a hardy one.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Natalie said...

I know them mums from the garden centers around here are hardy to zone 5 because they come from the huge mum garden up the road! It's a little bit safer when I know they've already overwintered in the area.

greenlegs80 said...

RIP. Your comments are great though...:)

Lynda Lehmann said...

Beautiful flower shots, Kylee!

Anonymous said...

That was a really joy of a read!

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