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Queries About Chrysanthemums And Gladiolus (Plus Gloriosa Lilies)!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

February 24, 2002

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These prize-winning show, or football mums, as described by the inquirer, were displayed at the September 1998 International Chrysanthemum Show held in Toronto. The photo above gives you an idea of the size as the exhibitor holds his spectacles beneath the bloom, and below, a crate of huge blooms as they arrived by air from Stoke-on Trent, England for the show. At bottom, Gloriosa lilies grow from tubers that are not hardy over winter in most Canadian climates. Author photos.
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Mrs. Lynn P. Wall wrote some time ago to Plant & Garden magazine with some questions that were not only interesting but also unusual. Unfortunately, like those answered here last week, I was not able to get an answer published.
Here’s her first question having to do with chrysanthemums. “In the October/November 1999 issue it mentions ‘black cloth over the plants to initiate buds’. When and how would you use this to encourage garden mums to bloom a little earlier?” Mrs. Wall goes on to say she does a lot of exhibiting at fall fairs and that she used to have lots of mum blooms open in September but since the summers have gotten hotter and the falls warmer they just don’t seem to really start setting buds until the nights get cooler. She follows that up with the question: “Is there some way of encouraging them to bloom nicely just two or three weeks sooner?”
First, it is not really the temperatures that control the mums’ blooming. It is rather, day-length. Generally 13 hours of darkness are needed for a period of from seven to 10, and even as long as 14 weeks depending on the cultivar. The mention of the black cloth in the October/November ’99 issue was by Jim Pook, retired horticulturist who was, for decades, the man behind Hamilton Ontario’s long-running Mum Show. He was referring to the techniques currently used by commercial growers for pot mums that we now buy 12 months of the year. It’s much easier for them in their modern greenhouses.
Unfortunately, the techniques used by the greenhouse growers are not really practical for home gardeners. Even if she was to grow her mums in pots, they would need to be moved in an out of a greenhouse (or covered/uncovered), and while indoors each would need to be given a quarter turn daily.
The only other technique that might speed up the blooming would be stopping them earlier in the spring (ie. cutting them back).
Mrs. Wall also asked about mums she remembered her grandmother having that “got very big double flowers.” She said she thought they were called football mums. These in fact are still grown today by specialist hobby growers and aficionados, many of whom are members of the Canadian Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society. Coincidentally there is a meeting of this group upcoming on the evening of Thursday, February 28 at the Civic Garden Centre at Lawrence and Leslie in Toronto. They meet regularly, and in the spring hold a plant sale of these show mums that Mrs. Wall remembers. Those interested in this type of plant (and flowers!) could get in touch with Jim McWilliam at about membership and the timing of meetings, especially the plant sale. Their flower shows are held in early and late fall and combine dahlias and chrysanthemums.
In another part of Mrs. Wall’s letter she made the following comment: “I didn’t know until this year that you could drown mums. We made a major move last summer (1999) and moved at least part of every perennial and bulb we had growing. Mums were transplanted into pots, tubs etc. in late July and did not go back into the ground until late August. All but two containers were doing splendid, green and healthy. I couldn’t understand why two seemed to be dying. I told the kids to make sure every container had drainage, but when I was replanting those two plants [I found they] were in a big mud swamp. I was sure they were done for, but we cut them back and planted them, and after a couple of weeks they developed some new growth from the bottom. One of them even managed to bloom a little.”
All gardeners who have mums in their garden should remember that comment. Mums do NOT like wet roots, especially in spring, and as I have often told callers to my radio shows, if there is a problem with mums apparently dying in your perennial border over winter, it may well be an early spring “too wet” problem rather than a “not surviving the winter” problem. If this could be your problem there is the recommendation that the mum plants be dug late in the fall and placed on top of the perennial bed within large clumps of soil. An additional mulching of the clumps with leaves would likely not go astray. This will often help the plants avoid the drowning of their roots.
Finally, Mrs. Wall asked a non-related question which is timely to answer currently. “My mom is sure that years ago she ordered gladiolus from a company that specialized in glads. It was all they sold. Do you know of such a place?”
The answer to that question is simple, and may well be of interest to many other gardeners interested in gladioli and other related bulbs. The company, started by Leonard Butt, is now called Butt’s Berry & Flower Farm. They are located in Huttonville near Brampton Ontario. Leonard’s daughters and their families now operate it. You may call for a free “Gladalogue”: 905-455-8344. 
They also list dahlias and star of Bethlehem; however, this year I don’t see the fabulous glory lilies (Gloriosa rothschildiana) listed. These are often hard to find in garden centres, and when you do, they may well be small tubers. The Leonard Butt people used to stock (and perhaps still do) the largest Gloriosa tubers! How many listeners/readers have grown these?
Just to conclude this week, I have something a little different. In mid January I had an e-mail note from George Allen ( who, with wife, operates Cobwebs Antiques in Flesherton, Ontario (519-924-3686). While I am familiar a bit with Flesherton because of a number of years’ involvement with Andy McConvey, a beef producer and marketer there, I have never spent a lot of time there. I do know however, that in the winter it is generally cold.
Last year, George tells me, he designed and made an inexpensive winter bird drinking fountain that he says has withstood the vagaries of his Grey County weather.
His directions are as follows. Start with a large coffee can (a 1 kg) and pierce/drill a hole about 5 cm (2”) up the side. The hole should be just large enough to take a short 3/8” or ½” outside-threaded yoke or pipe available at hardware stores. The yoke is clamped on the tin using thin nuts also available at hardware stores. (These are used most often in fastening lamp sockets to ornamental bases.) On the interior of the tin attach a porcelain bulb holder to the threaded yoke and extend the cord through the yoke and attach a plug to the other end. Use Fiberglas Pink or Roxul Inc. insulation (the latter is much less abrasive to your hands) to line the inside of the can; about 3 cm thick. Line both the bottom and side. Insert a 15-watt appliance bulb into the holder.
The water holder can be a $3 stainless steel salad bowl. That’s it!
George says they have tested the device for over a year, and the total cost is about $7.

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