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Growing Green

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Autumn is a wonderful time in the flower garden. Autumn Joy Sedum, fall blooming Asters, Coreopsis and goldenrod abound, but my favorites by far are chrysanthemums. Many garden centers offer annual mums in the early spring, but I am particularly fond of perennials, and have been in search of reliable, hardy, colorful mums to include in my fall garden. Plant breeders at the University of Minnesota have introduced a number of beautiful chrysanthemums that will bloom in early autumn. (Bloom time is the key. Some mums are northern hardy, but set buds so late that the first killer frost occurs before they have a chance to bloom.)

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The U of M, considered a national leader in mum breeding, has produced a number of selections for northern gardeners. Among them are the low maintenance "My Favorite" series with frost-tolerant blooms. These monster plants grow up to four feet tall and are three to seven feet in diameter by the second year. They all have daisy type flowers and come in a variety of colors. "My Favorite" Autumn Red has Maroon petals with a gold center. "MF" Coral has Coral petals with a gold center. "MF" Twilight Pink flowers are pink with a gold center. "MF" White has a semi-double daisy flower with white petals and a gold center, and "MF" Yellow Quill has yellow quilled petals with a yellow center. Each of these is a cushion mum, with a hemispherical growth habit and flowers that almost completely cover each plant.

The "Minn" series of cushion mums are early bloomers and also come in a variety of colors. Minngopher is ruby-red with two-inch to 2-1/2-inch flowers. Minnqueen is Rose-pink, with three inch flowers. Minnrose is Rose-pink with a 1- 1/2-inch pompon. Minnruby is Ruby-red with 2-1/4-inch flowers. Minnwhite has two-inch flowers, and Minnyellow has two-inch Lemon-yellow flowers.

Beyond the "Minn" and "My Favorite" series, other hardy mums produced by the University of Minnesota include: 'Peach Centerpiece,' a four-inch single quill bloom with a yellow center; 'Rose Blush,' an early upright; 'Sesquicentennial Sun,' a new long-flowering yellow double, and 'Betty-Lou' a striking red button mum with flowers averaging two inches in diameter.

For more information about Minnesota Garden Mums and pictures of many of the varieties listed, log on to the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Website at www.maes.umn.edu/MNHardy/components/mums.asp or try these other resources:

•Catalog of "Mums from Minnesota" from Faribault Growers, (507) 334-6220

•U of M Extension Service fact sheet, "Garden Chrysanthemums, www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/DG7068.html.

Minnesota mums may be found at many garden centers and nurseries in late summer and fall. Look for variety names on each plant. Licensed propagators include: Dooley Gardens, 210 North High Drive NE, Hutchinson, MN 55350 (320-587-3050); Mums for Minnesota, 3135 227th Street East, Fairbault, MN 55021 (507-334-6220), or Spring Hill Nurseries Co., 6523 North Galena Road, Peoria, IL 61632 (320-691-4610).

Until next time, happy gardening!

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

~George Eliot

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