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Cool Chrysanthemums

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Chrysanthemums, also shortened to mums or xants, are an absolute staple of the decorative flower. Perfect all year round and perennial, there are over thirty different types of this – the gold flower. Widespread across Europe and Asia, they're easy to grow and long lasting, hardy and with wonderful blooms. They are a sign that autumn has finally arrived and often bloom through to Christmas. They can often be the last flower in your garden each year.

This versatile flower is also edible, with teas made from the petals in Korea and China. China is in fact where the 'mum' was first recorded, over 2,000 years ago. The Japanese use small varieties as a garnish for sashami. They are also used to bring down indoor air pollution and can be made into insecticides. They can also be used in medicinal blends with black pepper, to treat certain sexually transmitted diseases.

In some cultures they're considered unlucky and are used to adorn graves and presented at funerals. Yet, they are also a birth flower for those born in November. They're also associated with love, friendship and happiness. They're certainly a very cheery sight when all other flowers have long since stopped blooming.

Yet most of all, these are just lovely blooms. They can be huge, in pompons or little buttons. The colour range is huge: with the most popular being white, yellow, pink and red. Long stemmed, with opulent flowers, they often reach eighteen inches in height. They can grow on tall shoots, or be kept bushy, which encourages more petals as the plant diverts its resources from growing taller to producing more flowers. Sometimes, the petals are so dense that you can hardly see the centre of the flower.

Chrysanthemums are simple to cultivate in most gardens. Though they are classed as tropical, they are a hardy perennial and can withstand low temperatures. They can be planted either in Spring or Autumn, but for best results, get the in the ground in Spring to avoid the winter frosts killing them off when they are still in their infancy. They will often delight you with two blooms each year.

Plant them in full sun for the biggest blooms, but this versatile flower can survive in other areas too. They like compost and a soil that's well drained, but really you should be able to settle them in in most places. A quick tip is to use a fertiliser that is rich in phosphorous, then your mums will really thrive. They're also resistant to most disease and don't suffer too badly with insects, so this is an ideal plant for even the most brown fingered gardener.

There are some ways you can protect your chrysanthemums if you're in a cold, windy and rainy region. One tip is to plant the entire pot – without removing the plastic – near a wall. Because they grow so tall, put stake next to the stem and tie it on. This will prevent the stem from breaking in the wind. Then, when conditions get really wild, you can lift the entire pot and plant easily and bring them indoors or put them in a greenhouse.

When they reach about eight inches in height, you can pinch them out. This improves your chances of a bushy, flower-rich crop. All you need to do is to remove the top growth, literally pinching everything that's four leaves up above the soil. This stops the mums growing too tall and gangly. They have a shallow root system, so only need surface watering and not that much of it.

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