The conservatory staff is spending the remainder of this week completing the installation of this year's Sunken Garden Fall Flower Show. This display is predominated by chysanthemums, but also includes ornamental peppers and rex begonias.
While mums are an autumnal standard in American horticulture, they have been cultivated for thousands of years in China. The plants we grow today are hybridized versions of the original species; there are various flower shapes, colors, and habits.
The conservatory received 1600 rooted cuttings of the mums back in late June and the horticulture staff has been growing them in our greenhouses since then. Mums require short day-lengths (which are actually longer dark periods) in order to set flowers. In the 1940's growers discovered that this is the key to inducing uniform flowering on mum crops. Today, we use black shade cloths to manipulate the amount of light exposure our mums receive each day to ensure a very uniform and predictable crop. We also use cultural techniques, like bud removal, to create different growth habits. Since our greenhouse climates are carefully controlled by a computer system, we can also vary the plants' temperature exposure. This can allow us to "speed up" or "slow down" flower development as needed. All these elements help create beautiful and healthy plants for the display.
The Fall Flower Show opens this Saturday, October 11, at 10 a.m. Be sure to visit the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory's Sunken Garden to enjoy this lovely display.