Words: Graham Rice
More and more gardeners are appreciating the value of autumn flowers, extending displays from the end of summer into winter. In particular, hardy garden chrysanthemums have been enjoying a welcome resurgence, and not only for their wide variety of colours and flower forms. RHS trials have confirmed that many of the old garden chrysanthemums are reliably hardy and can be grown in the same way as other perennials.
In sun and any reasonably fertile soil that does not lay wet in winter - they hate bad drainage – these hardy garden chrysanths not only provide a long season of autumn colour but can also be cut for the house.
Chrysanthemum ‘Aunt Millicent’
The delicate, subtle colouring of ‘Aunt Millicent’ is uncommon in hardy chrysanths. In October the buds open rose pink then mature to blushed white, 5-6cm (2-21/2in) flowers with two or three rows of petals. When its received its AGM in 2009, the assessors said: 'Very floriferous: plenty of buds and a mass of fresh, pale pink flowers. Uniform habit. Excellent flower quality and weather resistance.' 90-100cm (36-40 in)
Chrysanthemum ‘Carmine Blush'
This modern variety in the old style, raised by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers, features yellow-eyed, bright rose pink, single flowers about 6cm (21/2in) across; they open from darker buds and gradually fade. It’s also tough and has excellent weather resistance so you can see its attractions. Valuably late in flower, from October to December, it forms a rounded plant which overwinters well. 60cm (24in)
Chrysanthemum ‘Enbee Wedding’
The first of a whole series of varieties with the same flower form but in many different colours, the original is a single flowered variety in fresh rose pink. A darker shade in the heart of the flower as it first opens, extra layers of petals give the flower valuable additional substance and impact. Good in borders and also for cutting. Some times known as ‘Pink Enbee Wedding’.
Chrysanthemum ‘Mauve Gem'
Early in flower, from mid-August to mid-October, each petal is rolled along most of its length then flat at the tip creating the “spoon” shape. The 7.5cm (3in) flowers are mauve pink in colour, and their form is best appreciated either cut or when planted towards the front of the border. Like many pinks, the flowers opens darker then fade as they mature. Dislikes winter wet more than most. 60cm (24in)
Chrysanthemum ‘Nantyderry Sunshine’
Dainty little buttery yellow pompoms, like little buttons about 2.5cm (1in) across, cover the neat, bushy, and rather twiggy small-leaved plants in October and November. Opening from orange buds and maturing to reveal a yellow eye, an occasional shoot may revert to the pink ‘Mei-Kyo’, from which it was derived. Found by Rose Clay, a member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee, in her Welsh garden. 50cm (20in)
Chrysanthemum ‘Nell Gwynn’
An attractive single pink, again with extra rows of petals creating more impact, the 6.5cm (21/2in) flowers also feature a ring of soft primrose yellow around the central golden eye. The flowers are set against broad foliage and open from July to October, an unusually long season. The pink colouring tends to fade in the hot summer sun but develops richer tones in cooler conditions. 75cm (30in)
Chrysanthemum ‘Perry’s Peach’
The peach-pink flowers of ‘Perry’s Peach’ are almost, but not quite, orange when they first open but mature to peachy pink with rich yellow eye. Opening in late September and October, although the 5-6cm (2-21/2in) flowers look single, there are in fact three rows of petals rather than one and this gives the flowers greater substance. ‘Perry’s Peach’ was found in a garden in Whitby, North Yorkshire, in 1980. 50-70cm (20-28in)
Chrysanthemum ‘Ruby Mound’
Beginning in late September, this vigorous, bushy, and free flowering variety develops rather upright sprays of 5-6cm (2-21/2in) double deep red flowers. Flowering continues into November. Developed in Minnesota in the 1950s, the climate there is far more harsh than in Britain and this has proved a good winter hardy variety except in badly drained situations. Good with small-flowered Aster selections and fruiting shrubs. 90cm (36in)
Chrysanthemum ‘Ruby Raynor’
In a traditional autumn colour combination of slightly coppery gold new central petals maturing to rich yellow, the 5cm (2in) double flowers open in September and October and continue until a hard frost. Another very hardy variety, origin unknown, ‘Ruby Raynor’ is lovely in front of colourful autumn colouring foliage and with dahlias and other chrysanths in autumnal shades. It’s also good for cutting. 75cm (30in)
Chrysanthemum ‘Sea Urchin’
This unusual, relatively low, mounding variety for the front of the border features distinctive, double, spidery 10cm (4in) flowers which are rich yellow in the centre maturing to cream older petals around the outside. Each flat petal is quilled – that is, rolled lengthways into a tube to create the effect. Bushy, self-supporting in growth and ideal by the path where its characteristic form can be admired. 55cm (22in)