JoAnne Skelly: A spot of color

The days have been bleak with constant smoke and I feel badly for all those who have fled, and possibly lost, their homes.
I can’t imagine not having our home, trees and the landscape we have spent 33 years nurturing. I haven’t worked in the yard for a long time and feel I have lost my connection to nature. I barely get out long enough to water with my N95 on, let alone prune, dead-head or weed.
So, when I was driving to the grocery store a few days ago, I was surprised when bright glowing spots of deep hot pink caught my eye. I realized my neighbor Roni had planted mums in pots on her front stairs. They were vivid in the dull gray light. It made my day to see happy thriving plants.
I started noticing mums in other locations as I did errands. With their assorted colors of yellow, orange, burgundy, purple, rose, red and multi-colored, they really stand out at this time of year, particularly with the dull light.
Chrysanthemums are members of the Asteraceae or daisy family, which includes marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, echinaceas and dahlias among others. They are hardy and easy to grow. As I was researching mums, I found the site for the National Chrysanthemum Society of the USA,, that is geared for those with a passion for mums including showing and competing.
I discovered that there are many classes of mums. Some have flattened centers with spoon-like ends of petals. Others are great big balls that I know as “football” mums, but which they call “Irregular Incurve, Reflex and Regular Incurve.”
One class is Anemone with a center-raised disk surrounded by petals. There are Pompom mums that are often used in flower arrangements; or, the elegant-looking Spider mums that remind me of fireworks.
Some gardeners treat mums as annuals, while others grow them as perennials. Spring is the best time to plant them, so they can establish before winter. I have read that plants left standing for winter do better than those cut to the ground. And, although they are heavy feeders, it isn’t recommended to feed them after mid-August, except with a slow-release fertilizer or they won’t acclimate before the cold.
Although this may not be the best planting time, that doesn’t mean you can’t purchase and enjoy them now. Then, take a chance and plant them anyway. You just might be pleasantly surprised next spring. And think of all the color you could have to brighten the rest of this gloomy summer.
JoAnne Skelly is associate professor & extension educator emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Email


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