not to grow Chrysanthemums for exhibition by Al Dormer (Canada)
tongue in cheek look at my first efforts).
a first year novice embarking on the great adventure of growing our
favorite cultivar, I was excited at the prospect of all those lovely
blooms adding beauty and colour to my garden. In anticipation of this I
suggested to Joan that we buy a big new sideboard to rest all the cups and
medals on. No dice! She wants a dishwasher instead.
the very best ..."
job was to obtain suitable stools for propagating. A few quick phone calls
followed by a visit to the donor gave me plenty of stock. Of course, each
donor to my collection gave the “very best variety” each one
guaranteed to win first prize. So where do I start? What varieties do I
grow? Not wanting to miss out on any possible prizewinner I decided to
grow them all.
the stools were placed in the greenhouse on the staging and fed a little
ground heat then sprayed with tepid water just as the book said. Within a
very short time I was taking cuttings galore, each one carefully marked
and placed according to its type. They are lavished with tender loving
care. (Joan wonders why she doesn’t get the same TLC). Soon the
greenhouse is full of cuttings with no room left for my other plants. What
to do? I have it. At one of the club meetings, One member explains the
benefits and method of building a cold frame, so I set to work to build
one. There is nothing like working out in the garden up to the knees in
snow in sub zero weather to keep the blood circulating. All the poor
relation plants are moved into the frame and the greenhouse is given over
completely to the chrysanths. Still no room as the cuttings keep coming.
Invade the house! I commandeer the laundry room for the overspill. Joan is
wisely points out that when all the plants reach maturity, I’ll need to
rent the back forty from the local farmer. Anyway I will deal with that
problem later. The efforts are beginning to take their toll on my health
as I am constantly running back and forth from the greenhouse at all times
of the day and night to administer to my beloved plants. (Joan thinks I
have a bottle stashed in there).
full time job ..."
Record keeping I am told is of the utmost importance. So I prepare
my computer by adding another ten gigabytes just in case, invest in the
very latest software and start to record my activities. All the cuttings
are labeled and numbered and the record reflects the rooting date number
of the cutting with the name together when it was moved to another
location and fed and watered etc. The plants grow bigger. I need to take a
few days off work to catch up. The watering job is becoming a full time
occupation. There are no volunteers in the household for this task so I do
that as well. After the plants are watered I usually take a drink of water
as well; I generally put a little scotch in it first to kill any germs.
and more manure ..."
Advice on feeding was freely given to me and the list of
fertilizers bought seemed endless. I managed to obtain horse manure, cow
manure, sheep manure, Pigeon manure and chicken manure. I am told by one
old expert grower that the very best manure comes from rocking horses but
to date I’ve had no luck on that one.
Bonemeal, superphosphate, hydrated lime together with plant food
from 1 .1. 1. To 99. 99. 99 were all shipped in ready for the growing
season. (Plant Products promised to open a branch in Durham Region if I
continue to spend at the same rate next year).
Following directions on the container which is always different
from what I’m told, the plants are fed with all the different
ingredients and I stand back in anticipation of beanstalk like growth
shooting out of my garden. Seeking
assurances that everything is going fine I ask around if I have missed
you given a top dressing of nitrogen yet?” one expert asks me. “Er
no” I reply, meaning to remedy that situation by a visit to the local
co-op on my way home. The nitrogen is duly scattered on the pots and on
beds ready for planting out.
The critical time is here at last “What are the stopping
dates?” Again I ask around the experts and receive all kinds of answers.
The best one being “I always stop ninety minutes after the first
rainfall following the first full moon after Easter Sunday”. The most
confusing explanation is “do it when you like”. It’s planting out
time at last. All the frost has gone the days are now warmer and longer. I
start to plant out. I chose what I consider to be the best plants and put
these in pots to grow for exhibition. The rest go in the ground except
that as Joan predicted I have run out of ground. I decide to rotor till a
new patch of ground from the lawn. A violent argument ensues with Joan
opposed to any lawn encroachment. My son Steven comes out on my side and
his weight carries the day. He wants me to double the size of the new
flowerbed. This makes me think that he is becoming interested in my hobby
but he says no its just less grass for him to cut. The crafty so and so!
do right for doing wrong ..."
Soon after the plants put in the open I notice most of them going a
dark brown colour. Panic sets in and much midnight oil is burnt reading to
find what this disease is. No luck, the plants are wilting and going dark
brown. In desperation I rip a few cultivars from the ground and scuttle
off to Scarborough to request an audience with one of the great ones who
knows EVERTHING about Chrysanthemums. One look and the verdict is in.
“You have burnt them all,” he says. “Too much nitrogen” I am
shattered, I can’t do right for doing wrong I rush home and dig all the
plants up and remove the soil to replace it with fresh. My next door
neighbor asks me if I am digging for buried treasure. I begin to think I
should have chosen a less stressful hobby like shark baiting or bungie
jumping. After a few days-hard work the job is done and I realize that I
have solved a major problem, I won’t need the back forty acres after
all! Time now to update my notes and I switch on my computer.
Inadvertently press the wrong key and send my precious records to
oblivion. Not to worry, I still have my notebooks tucked away in the
greenhouse. I finally locate them under the plant pot to find the book all
mildewed and wet and indecipherable. Thoughts of changing my hobby
reoccur. However “its an ill wind” so they say. I don’t have to
record all the mistakes that I have made.
the bugs clean!"
It is now the middle of June, the plants are growing nicely all
have been stopped and are shooting up. Time to stake and move those in
pots to larger pots. Suprisingly most of the plants that were burnt are
showing fresh growth. This is very encouraging however I don’t have much
room left so I give a few plants to my friend who sticks them in an old
laundry tub full of soil and leaves them to fend for them selves. Some of
the varieties need a second stop off the first crown bud. I am at a loss
as what to do, as most of mine don’t have even a first crown bud! I take
the bull by the horns and stop the lot again. By the end of July all the
plants are growing strongly with lots of side shoots and small buds
appearing. I am very diligent in my control of pests and spend a few hours
each day picking them off or spraying. I cannot use any toxins at all
because my daughter is a conservationist and won’t allow it. So I use
soap and water, it does not kill the bugs but I have the cleanest insects
in the Durham Region. I am a little more careful now when I feed them and
water sparingly. The weather is hot and I have no shade for the crops so I
attempt to rig up a temporary shelter. This great until the wind blew it
down and ruined a number of plants. (My crop is diminishing on a regular
basis). So I abandon the idea and trust to nature.
the show dates are fast approaching and I don’t have anything with a
bloom on it.
final straw ..."
my contemporaries have magnificent blooms just waiting to be judged. The
shows come and go and all the usual winners win again and I don’t have a
bloom in sight, very discouraging. I think of all the reasons why and
blame the loss of my records, the greenhouse is too small, too much
feeding, too much TLC, the bank manager wouldn’t advance a loan and all
kinds of other reasons too numerous to mention here. To make matters worse
my dahlias are not doing too well either. (That’s another story). Word
must have spread about my plight and I get an offer from a contractor to
concrete over my whole garden, I take this offer very seriously. The final
straw is when I visit my friend to whom I had given plants, to find the
most glorious blooms growing in the laundry tub. He is very pleased with
them and is convinced that I have hundreds just like them at home. He
wants to come and see them. I discourage him and very quickly change the
November comes around, and suddenly my flowerbeds are sporting the
most glorious blooms. I am overwhelmed at the sight. Passers by stop and
admire the view a few ask for cuttings. There is a steady stream of
neighbors coming for cut flowers. All think that I am a master gardener. I
haven’t the heart to tell them that they should have flowered two months
lessons learnt (and there were many) I hope will stand me in good stead
for future years growing and I am looking forward to the coming season.
The biggest problem facing me right now is teaching the plants to tell the
time that I may have blooms in time for the shows!
Reproduced with permission of Al Dormer, November 2003
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Last updated on 05 November, 2003