How not to grow Chrysanthemums for exhibition - part two "More Mishaps"
by  Al Dormer (Canada)

The saga continues ....
It has now been three years since my last report on “How not to grow Chrysanthemums” and I expect that most of you are eager for the continuing saga. The beds are now all formed and raised four inches. Each bed sixteen foot by three foot six inches. The framework is up for the covers and covered with decayed leaves and rotted horse manure and dug in. I only use manure from the race horse stables up the road from me as I believe that race horse manure makes the plants grow faster. Over the last three years I have cut down the number of varieties to twenty four for ease of management. But of course it is still far too many. So future years will see a further culling. The trouble is of course that one sees a bloom that is a winner or best in show and you just have to have it and so before long you are back to over fifty varieties. Of course you don’t realise that the grower has a lot to do with the bloom being there, so perhaps the next time I want a winning bloom, I will just kidnap the grower as well!

Good supply of cuttings
This last year, I was fortunate in my supply of cuttings and grew approximately two hundred and fifty including a dozen or so sprays mainly the “Enbee Wedding” family which proved very good. I also grew several varieties of the “John Wingfield” family, again with what I consider good results. Two others were newcomers, “Gornal Gold” and “Purple Chempak Rose”. The latter bloomed too late for the shows but gave a wonderful display in October. This year with an earlier root date and an earlier stop I may have better luck.

Everything according to plan (almost)
All went well during the season with the cultivars growing according to plan all having been treated to various insecticides, fungicides, growth stimulants and anything else that I could throw at them. Following the advice of the experts, the plants were fed every ten days with weak liquid nitrogen alternated with manure tea. Tying and staking regularly enabled me to keep an eye out for pests and take the appropriate steps. One of my biggest worries was my wife Joan encroaching my well prepared ground in order to expand her Dahlia bed. She even had the temerity to ask me if she could have my onion plot where one day I hope produce a prize root. The other main problem was caused by slugs.
                                     (Picture right: Al's garden, mid season)

All my Slugs are Hand picked!
 Again, I put down bait without much luck as they kept coming. In desperation, I resorted to that old tried and tested method of feeding beer on saucers to them. The beer kept disappearing, but no slugs. I rather fancy they crawled away to sleep it off, or spent the day at Alcoholics Anonymous to return in the evening for more. I finally resorted to going out at midnight with flashlight and container to pick them by hand. This proved most successful. I then threw the slugs into my garden pond to feed the fish. This of course made another rod for my back as the fish now line up every evening for their treats. During my midnight forays, I noticed quite a few of my frog friends and toads from the pond cleaning up the critters for me, so now I am careful when cultivating not to hurt them.

Success after some bad news
After taking the buds in July, the plants continued to develop nicely and then we had some bad news and had to arrange to go to England on hearing of Joan’s mums passing. I hastily threw up some polythene covers to protect the bloom bags and after arranging for friends to attend my plants, we departed for a month.

During my absence, I was indebted to Roy Fox who selected some cultivars and staged them for me at the CNE where I won first prize with “Gornal Gold” and “Enbee Wedding”. I had a good showing as well with “Gingernut”.

(Picture left: 'Gingernut')

Problems on return from England
On my return from England, I found that a portion of the covers had come down and broken  off some of the framework destroying at the same time a dozen or so cultivars underneath. In another area, there was a huge bulge in the polythene cover caused by water collecting there. Not wanting the same thing to happen, I pierced the cover intending to catch the water in a pail. The result was that the fabric ripped and I was treated to a refreshing shower of cold water. On turning round, I stumbled over the now full pail of water and further soaked my feet and sprawled headlong into the flower bed destroying another half dozen or so blooms that I KNOW would have been  winners on the show bench. It was at this time that I had serious thoughts that I should have stayed in England until all the shows were over. After some of that famous old Scottish medicine to calm my nerves, I erected a wall around the plot of green shade cloth netting. This was supposed to keep the insects out, but I strongly believe that it trapped them in as I noticed an increase in activity and the temperature became warmer. A fan was called for to circulate the air and this proved to be a solution except for a few plants too near that took on a windswept appearance. Earwigs made their usual presence felt in damage to some buds, but were not as troublesome since Joan started growing Dahlias. I think they must taste better than Chrysanthemums. A family of racoons took up residence in one of the Maple trees and made midnight forages all over the garden. To counter this, I let my spaniel dog out to frighten them off. Unfortunately, I have an underground electric fence around the garden where the dog may not go. The coons soon realised this and would stand in a safe area and torment the dog shamelessly. In the end I had to trap some of them and cart them away for relocation.

Cullen Gardens mini show ........
The mini show at Cullen Gardens was a great success, with me winning quite a few ribbons. It was at this show that I ventured from the safety of the novice section to compete with the experts in some classes with good results.

Early show and up against the Experts
At the early show, once again I put up in regular classes to compete with the experts. This of course made me realise two things, firstly that I still had a long way to go to be as good, and that if nothing else, my poor blooms enhanced the appearance of the winners. Despite all that, I had the satisfaction of a rosette for best novice and for the second year, a bronze medal for my efforts. All very exhilarating until I realised that I was the only novice competing. I also won enough prize money to cover the cost of bandages, sticking plaster backache remedies and ointments used in the course of the season. Last year was my final year in that category and future showings will be with the big boys. When I mentioned this at a recent meeting, I observed that some were shaking in their boots. I like to think it was from new competition, but I expect they were shaking with mirth and merriment at the thought of me joining them.
     (Picture right: ready for the Shows)

Mistakes, but steady progress nevertheless
Mistakes have been many, some of them silly, but progress has been made and each year is an improvement over the last. Nobody has jeered or ridiculed or criticized my efforts but welcomed them.

A couple of neighbours and friends who receive cut blooms have shown an interest in growing them especially after seeing the lovely display I had of garden mums.

These numbered about one hundred and fifty in two massed borders. All colours were represented and they were truly a remarkable sight. This season I plan on cultivating this kind of plant for myself and others.
(Picture left: 'Joyce Frieda')

If you grow it - show it!
In closing, I have to say that all the members and friends that I have talked to both here and in the U.K. have been most helpful in offering advice, help, and encouragement in establishing me in this wonderful world of Chrysanthemum growing. May I say that to anyone growing these lovely blooms, “Remember if you grow it, show it!” and have a good time doing so.   

 Reproduced with permission of Al Dormer, February 2005

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Last updated on 21 February, 2005