I hate Mums.
There, I’ve said it. Yet I just returned from the local nursery loaded down with a dozen or so pots of this despised plant.
As summer annual flowers begin to fade, the vacancy in my terra cotta pots was becoming dispiriting, as their limited singular season was soon over. Many of my spring plants are now in hospice, displaying the telltale signs of being near death, scraggly, leggy, with little to no production of flowers. These once upon a time glorious show stoppers, my own flashy Vegas showgirls decked out in vibrant pinks, yellows, and dayglo magentas that could take your breath away, have retreated after a successful but limited run.
They are on their last legs despite my attempts to nurse them back to health. Hoping for a miracle, even Miracle Grow cannot alter Mother Nature’s decree of a limited lifespan. It is the cycle of life writ large and observed every season. Unlike perennials-for those who are non-gardeners- annuals are plants that germinate, flower, set seed and die all in one season.
Some annuals are true survivors. My mélange of yellow and orange lantana still linger, marigolds and zinnias are as vibrant as ever and those crazy pansies with the sweet faces will go through frost. Dependable begonias those so E-Z to grow workhorse of the garden are as happy now as they were in mid-May when they first made an appearance in my window boxes and pots.
Discarding and removing summer’s annuals is an annual period of mourning for me so Yom Kippur seemed the perfect day to do so. These once gorgeous flowers are not unfortunately inscribed into the Book of Life*.
So that’s where Mums come in. In order to fill in the bare spots and refresh my fading container garden, mums the word. These ubiquitous plants found at every home goods store, fruit stand, and supermarket are about the only real choice to add color to the garden.
I feel as though I’m a prisoner to mums. There are slim pickings when it comes to fall flowers. Ornamental kale? Thanks but no thanks I prefer my kale in a salad bowl and not in a garden container.
So what is my issue with Chrysanthemums? Visually they are nice enough if a bit bland for my taste. Is it that they remind me of suburban track houses? Seeing row upon row of them reminds me of walking into a suburban development. All the plants look the same but for a different coat of paint.
Don’t Shoot The Messenger
But the truth of the matter is, I hate mums because they are the first warning shot that summer is nearly over.
Along with the appearance of Halloween candy and pumpkin spice lattes both of which seem to come way too early every year, the display of mums reminds me that cooler weather is approaching and the halcyon days of my beloved summer are slowly behind us. So I shoot the messenger and mums become the fall guy.
As a beach bum, I love summer with the same passion I hate mums and so the two are forever intertwined. Yet having just planted the mums in their pots, I am grateful for the bursts of color they provide if only in their simple way.
They are hardy, they are predictable and in a time of chaos, perhaps that is exactly what I need.
But when it comes to the end of summer, it’s still mums the word for me!
*According to Jewish tradition God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, The Book Of Life, on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal the deal” the verdict.