I went to Centennial Park Conservatory in Etobicoke, Ont. last week to see the mums on display at their annual chrysanthemum show.
The gardeners at the conservatory get their cuttings of mums from Canadian sources, like the Royal Botanical Gardens and Toronto Botanical Garden. Mum plants will get smaller and less bountiful over the years, so they need to start new plants from cuttings each year. This also ensures that they get the newest varieties — the mums I saw were certainly not like the ones I see at grocery stores every fall.
I had never seen chrysanthemums of this size before, and I learned that it takes a lot of work to get the flowers this big. They usually insert six cuttings per pot, and eventually pinch back growth so three branches grow from each plant. They also remove all side flowers, so the individual blooms get very large. They also train some of the stems up stakes, to get a tall “lollipop” effect.
To shape the mums into what I dub “flower statues,” each branch is trained on a wire, and added with others to create a shape. Of the many varieties, my favourite was ‘Golden Gate’, with flawless, smooth, bright yellow flowers. They had the individual flowers standing tall in rows, with other mums of similar size. I know this might sound silly, but I immediately thought ‘Golden Gate’ looked like it was made of butter.
The chrysanthemum show has ended at Centennial Park Conservatory, but it will be back next fall. Centennial Park Conservatory and Allan Gardens Conservatory are currently getting ready for their Christmas flower shows, which run from Dec. 2 to Jan. 6. The conservatories are open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. Opening events at each conservatory include Victorian carolers, hot cider and cookies, horse and carriage rides, children’s activities and a visit from Father Christmas. Grand opening at Allan Gardens is Sunday, Dec. 2, from noon to 7 p.m., and grand opening at Centennial Park is Sunday, Dec. 9, from noon to 7 p.m.