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Date last updated: 
18 November 2008

Section 21 Garden Forms 
by Judy Barker
(published 2nd April 2008)

Koreans Rubellums and hardy sprays)

What I am doing
With three 90 ft x 30 ft allotments under cultivation, I am entering the seventh trial year of the fully accredited NCCPG  National Collection of Koreans Rubellums and hardy sprays’®.

Anne, Lady Brocket

  From mid-August until November the plots are a riot of colour but the task of maintaining the collection does not stop with the cultivation of the plants and the work of recording continues. Ground, and weather (vernalisation) conditions, root formation, basal growth and plant performance are all carefully recorded together with pest and disease problems.

 Year on year a detailed profile of garden worthiness is being achieved. In addition backups of each variety are transferred to cold frames in my garden.

The plants in my collection are a representation of the history of the development of these garden forms between 1920s – 1970s with a few later hardy seedlings. As GS Thomas states in his letter plants introduced after 1960 are generally not fully winter hardy. The collection has provided much enjoyment and during the flowering season it is interesting to walk up and down the rows observing plants and recalling the old catalogue information.

The dilemma, of course, is that these plants cannot be entered in the Plant Finder unless they are available for sale to the general public and allotment regulations do not allow me to engage in a commercial activity so I have taken the decision to supply a selection to several nurseries and the NCS free of charge in return for Plant Finder entries. This will allow me time to carry out the further research into the history of the plants.

Field Trials
Ten cultivars from the collection are presently in the Field Trials at Wisley, two have been awarded AGMs and a further ten will be entered in the spring of 2007. Later in the winter of 2007/2008 the RHS are also planning to run hardiness trials at Wisley in order to establish whether their results match my own findings. At present I am providing the cuttings needed for the Trials.

Field Trials, Wisley 2007

The plants currently on trial at Wisley are: C. ‘Ruby Mound’ AGM; C. ‘Sea Urchin’ AGM; C. ‘Perry’s Peach’; C. ‘Ailine’; C. ‘Brightness’; C. ‘Nancy Perry’; C. ‘Ruby Raynor’; C. ‘Mary’; C. Aunt Millicent’; C. ‘Grandchild’ and the plants selected for the spring of 2007 are; C. ‘Columbine’; C. ‘Starlet’; C. ‘Yellow Starlet’; C. ‘Nell Gwynn’; C. ‘Mauve Gem; C. ‘Princess’; C. ‘White Gloss’; C. Shining Light’; C. ‘Louise’; C. ‘Spartan Seagull’. 

The research
Research into the history of these plants has been a most interesting and rewarding experience. Many visits were made to the Lindley Library and much time was spent poring over bound volumes of old magazines and boxes of catalogues. It was exciting to handle books from the personal library of Joseph Paxton with their exquisite drawings that illustrate the text. Similar research was also undertaken at the herbarium and library at Wisley together with the records held in the Field Trials Office. Another valuable source was the archive of Francis Perry deposited at Capel Manor Horticultural College, Enfield. Searches on the internet have been invaluable in tracing and acquiring several informative books long out of print. Not to be forgotten are the many kind people who have taken the time to send much valuable information.  

In the Gardener’s Chronicle of November 30 1957 I came across the following letter which summarises what I am trying to achieve.

Hardy Chrysanthemums; Information Wanted by G.S. Thomas

“The chrysanthemum has always been a valuable autumn flower, and as one goes through towns and villages in October and November one is struck by the beauty of garden after garden full of old stalwart varieties; varieties that one sees again and again, in every district, in the same plots every year, undivided, unstaked, and often not manured. These sturdy plants are just what we need to-day; they go on year after year and are fully hardy and perennial needing no annual lifting and propagation by cuttings the disadvantage of many modern varieties.

I would like to know two things; the names of the modern October and November flowering varieties which can be trusted as perennials in the open border and will stand without staking, and whether any grower has a collection of the splendid old garden varieties complete with names. With reference to my first enquiry, it would be interesting to have details of the soil in which they are successful.

Even the Koreans, originally very hardy perennials. Have become soft through hybridizing. And I suspect the same thing will happen to the Rubellums. Chrysanthemums bring such a fresh fragrance and such beauty of colour into our gardens and rooms that all good varieties are welcome, but I deplore the trend towards ever-earlier flowering varieties of tender constitution in a flower that started life as an autumn flowering perennial.” 

How I would have loved to have meet G S Thomas and shown him the results of my own trials. I can imagine quite a lively discussion.

Venus1 with butterflies How the plants were collected
The plants in the collection have come from several sources. Many were purchased from nurseries that were either on the point of closing or discontinuing the sale of garden forms of chrysanthemums. Valuable support and help has been given by the Hardy Plant Society and other NCCPG collection holders who were also growing chrysanthemums in addition to their own specialities. Once again last autumn many shoeboxes and Jiffy bags have arrived in the post containing roots and flowers. As a result there are forty-two additional plants to grow and record in 2007. Many of the plants are not identified but have survived many years in gardens with little attention paid to them. 
For example interesting sweet scented plants covered in flower perhaps a little ragged because of the weather but covered in hover flies up to the second week in November.

Plants from USA, France, Germany and Japan are included in the collection but I have little documentation. There are a few catalogues at the Lindley library in Japanese etc. but beyond my translation capabilities!  Any information would be most welcome.

Koreans and Rubellums 
What exactly are the differences between the two varieties? My experience to date is that some of the cultivars described as either a Korean or a Rubellum exhibit the characteristics of the other. Research into the history of the plants is necessary in order to establish the origins of the names. In October 1928 Alex Cumming of the Bristol Nursery, Connecticut, USA, crossed C. ‘Ruth Hatton’ with C. coreanum the seeds of which had been obtained during an expedition to Korea by Ernest Wilson and brought to the USA. Cummings named the resultant seedlings “Koreans”. Growing to a height over 2½ ft.  the plants flowered late.  Names of the planets Mars, Apollo etc. were given to each cultivar.

In 1934 Wells Hardy Plant Nursery of Merstham, Surrey secured the distribution rights in the UK and their adverts are to be seen in The Gardener’s Chronicle listing the plants from the Bristol Nursery. Shortly afterwards Fred Simpson of Pool Road Gardens, Otley, Yorkshire, acquired some of the Koreans and between 1940 to 1960 bred the Otley Koreans that gave us shorter and earlier flowering garden forms. Some time in the 1930s Amos Perry of Enfield, Middlesex, crossed a plant obtained from Kew called C. rubellum with another chrysanthemum. Unfortunately, his records are lost and the identity of the other plant remains un-established. The resultants plants were marketed under the name “Perry’s Rubellums”. 

Because of the history I have come to the conclusion that the two names Korean and Rubellum are trade names. Since the 1930’s there have been so many crossings between them that the whole naming of these two categories is in a complete muddle. In 2006 this resulted in a discussion at a Trials Committee meeting and the RHS have asked the NCS to consider the matter.  A new category in the classification of genera “Section 21 garden forms” was proposed by the NCS.

Wisley Display 2004

NCS Register
These garden forms of chrysanthemum have not been included on the NCS register and efforts are now being made to add them retrospectively using the research to date. Representatives of the NCS Committee visited the allotments on two occasions in October 2006 and around one hundred cultivars were registered. Where possible the plants on the allotments were compared with the descriptions that appeared in the original catalogues and other sources. My hope is that with the names in the Plant Finder it will become easier for people wishing to buy garden forms in the future. At present my trials are trying to establish if all entries under section 21 are fully hardy in all parts of the UK.Over the years crossing and sports have given rise to problems with names. Examples are:

Amos Perry’s Jessie Cooper

Mrs. Jessie Cooper, Mrs Jessie Cooper 1, Mrs Jessie Cooper 2. There is also a pale pink version of Jessie Cooper at the Conservatoire National du Chrysantheme in Paris.

Amos Perry’s Lady in Pink

Pink Procession, Pink Progression

Bristol Nursery’s Apollo

Two forms with same name

In addition, Mei-Kyo means “Treasure of Kyoto” but the Kyo part of the name is now written with a small k in the Plant Finder, another matter to clarify. 

Uses in the border
We must play around with these plants and stretch the border possibilities and combinations, perhaps with grasses, so as to extend interest into November in glorious colour, or even later in a sheltered area. Our autumns are staying milder longer now, so it’s worth a try. 

C. Mei-Kyo’s sports C. ‘Bronze Elegance’ C ‘Purleigh White’ and C. ‘Nantyderry Sunshine’ AGM form dense multi-stemmed bushy plants flowering profusely in October these could make a low hedge edging a border. Green June to late September then changing dramatically as the hedge flowers. After all the cascades are clipped to shape so why not a hedge? I keep running out of space to try this. C. ‘Lady in Pink’ will do this without clipping forming a lovely domed shape. 

3 plants of Lady in Pink
Three plants of Lady in Pink filling a five foot strip

North American History
Because of World War Two UK nurseries were given over to food production and flowers were discarded in preference to food crops. Many garden forms were put aside. However, the breeding programme continued in the USA where Dr Jacob Kraus, a botanist at Chicago University, was especially prolific. His plants were sold though Dick Lehman of Faribault, Minnesota, who was a breeder on his own account and also in association with the University of Minnesota. An annual colour catalogue was published and the phrase “Mums from Minnesota” was coined. C. ‘Ruby Mound’ AGM is one result of Lehman’s  breeding programme. C. ‘Grandchild’; C ‘Starlet’; C. ‘Yellow Starlet’; C. ‘Sea Urchin’ are also Minnesota Mums. The business was sold in 1972 but the University breeding programme continues to this day. Other breeders in the North Americas were Dr A C Hildreth (Denver Botanical Garden), Dr L Longley (University of Minnesota), Yoder Brothers (Ohio), George J Ball Inc (Illinois), G Viehmeyr (University of Nebraska), Orville and Leva Dunham (Michigan) and Dr F L Skinner (Manitoba). 

Further developments
Since the 1960s there has been no major breeding programme for these garden forms in the UK but development has continued in North America where hardiness trials are being undertaken which we seem not to be doing. In the past few years US breeders have collected wild chrysanthemum species from West China close to Tibet in order to cross back to their genetic pool in their breeding programme. The University of Minnesota advertised “My FavoriteTM” in 2001 described as a shrub-like plant bearing frost-tolerant flowers and attracting butterflies (something I had noticed in my plants and commented on above). Work at Minnesota is also continuing with the wave or prostrate Mums which in the UK we refer to as ground cover plants.

Trials in the USA have provided much interesting information on aspects of hardiness. In his 1964 book “The Chrysanthemum Book” Roderick Cumming (son of Alex) reported:

“ in late November just before the ground freezes over, we dig clumps with a good ball of soil and set them on top of the ground. When the plant freezes hard a light covering of mulch is put on to lock in the frost. This is left until spring. This harsh treatment insures good drainage and uninterrupted freezing”

A paper submitted by N Anderson and E Gesick of University of Minnesota says:

“A garden chrysanthemum breeding program could collect data on emergent rhizome number in the fall of the first years growth to determine winter hardiness …

In addition the University website carries a report that the lethal temperature for outdoor types is around –12C in the ground which means a much lower air temperature.

These expert findings are reflected in my experience of the plants in the collection over the past six winters. After flowering has finished and the plants begin to die down forming the rhizomatous roots the number of newly emerging basal growths gives an excellent indication as to winter hardiness. My conclusion is that digging up and taking these plants to a warmer frost-free environment will do them no good. They must have a period of vernalisation of around four weeks at least, so they can develop their winter storage roots. Or better still leave well alone in the ground.

Pest and diseases
It is no good pretending that nothing ever happens. Sporadically brown rust has appeared which was treated with Sythane. Receiving plants from all over the country has run the risk of eelworm when spotted the whole stem was removed and destroyed. Some of these plants have been cut back over a whole season and recovered with good results.

Prevention is better than cure and healthier plants are achieved if not overcrowded and the more vigorous shrubby types up to 2 feet apart. A light drench of liquid slug bait when the soil begins to warm in the spring will remove the hatching ground slugs which can do so much damage to the roots. This application is used by Hosta growers for Chelsea. I do not grow as a mono-culture, these are allotments after all, so the vegetables are grown in between the rows.

I hope I have made a case for promoting Section 21 garden forms. There are some excellent cultivars. How about considering growing them once more?

Plants can be obtained from, (subject to availability as they are being bulked-up) Norwell Nursery, Little Heath Farm, Southview Nursery, Daisy Roots, Cotswold Garden Flowers, Monksilver Nursery, NCS; in 2008 Harveys Garden Plants and Phoenix Perennial Plants.   

Judy Barker 2007 

This article and the pictures contained in it are copyright of Judy Barker and may not be reproduced or copied without permission from the Author. 

Selection of flower 'Forms'

Latest News

2008 Picture Gallery

Wisley Field Trials 2008
Details of cultivars in the trial this year

Wisley Trials 2008

Registered National Collection
Judy Barker's collection is a fully accredited registered National Collection and is featured on the website of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants & Gardens. 
Click here for NCCPG

c 'Mrs Jessie Cooper'

Wisley Field Trials 2005
Read Judy's notes.
Trial Notes 2005

US Contacts
Judy would like to hear from anyone growing these forms in the USA. Contact Judy by e-mail 
Judy Barker e-mail

Allotment Trials

A selection of flower 'Forms'

A useful link
Norwell Nursery 
type  'chrysanth' in the box and click on search button


© Copyright 2006 Paul Barlow.