On Gardening: Nothing says fall like the mari-mum

October 24, 2016

Lunacy Marigolds have unique outer petals giving a real mum-like look.

Gosh, I love this time of the year where everyone decorates with pumpkins and old flowers get ripped out and mums go in. As much as I treasure Belgian mums, I must admit there is something special about mari-mums. I would be quick to tell you there is no such thing as a mari-mum but in actuality, it has won the coveted Texas Superstar award, not once but twice, 1989 and 2013.

The mari-mum is really a concept and a doggone good one. Mari-mums are the large flower marigolds, known botanically as Tagetes erecta, that are reminiscent of chrysanthemums. Many of them really look like the old-fashioned homecoming mums of the 50ís and 60ís but smaller.

These marigolds are often called African marigolds though they are really from Mexico. The Spaniards took these treasured flowers of the Aztecs and planted them in southern Europe and northern Africa where they absolutely flourished. They flourish for us too in the spring but totally dazzle when planted in late summer as a small bedding plant or larger transplants like you find at garden centers now.

If you live in an area that is already flirting with frost then you will wait until next year. Here in Savannah and the South Carolina Low Country where landscapes were hammered by hurricane Matthew mari-mums can perk up a home quicker than just about any other plant.

Mari-mums or the marigolds, if you will, typically produce their flowers before chrysanthemums and are still blooming when frost actually takes them out.

If you associate spider mites with marigolds know that this is a summer plague and the blooming mari-mum is hardly a target as the cooler temperatures of fall diminishes the spider mite reproductive rate.

Here at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden, we are using the variety called Taishan yellow. The Taishan series made its debut in coordination with the Beijing Olympics in 2008. This extraordinary marigold is named after the sacred Mount Tai in China, Ďshaní referring to mountain.

Over the years I have come to realize I am a sucker for all of the Tagetes erecta marigolds and several of their hybrids when it comes to fall planting. Moonstruck is one such variety producing huge pom-pom like flower balls. Itís funny I can spot this variety from a great distance. Then there are two series that are absolutely stunning in their design looking just like mums with their unique outer petals, they are Lunacy and Mumsy marigolds.

The marigold is a fickle market as your local grower can only produce so many varieties to sell at your garden center. On the other hand, if you are a marigold nut like me then you can find the flowers of your dreams via catalogs so you can have whatever you want for next spring or fall. As you probably remember from your childhood days marigolds are about the easiest flowers to grow from seed.

If you are looking for that fall festival-like flower for your landscape then, by all means, consider the large flowered marigold. Surprise your garden center and tell them the new name is mari-mum. Combine them with the fall blooming salvia, asters, ornamental peppers and a pumpkin or two and youíll have cornered that Octoberfest like look.



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