Autumn colors abound at Huntsville Botanical Garden! If you’ve ever visited the Garden while the leaves are changing, you know there are lots of pretty views and photo opportunities, but did you know about our fall chrysanthemum and pumpkin displays? Have you ever wondered what the different kinds are? The cultivars of pumpkins and mums we chose have some interesting backstories.
Here are a few of the unusual pumpkins in our displays this year:
The ‘Blue Jarrahdale’ pumpkin is a slate colored, blue-grey, 6-10 pound pumpkin with a boxy, ribbed shape that is very decorative. It is very popular in Australia, both as an ornamental and for culinary use. It is an easy to grow heirloom and the fruit has a long shelf life.
‘Sunlight’ is a 5-8 pound pumpkin with a stunning yellow color and contrasting dark green stem. It is an F1 hybrid developed by Dr. Brent Loy, a professor of plant biology and genetics at the University of New Hampshire, for its decorative features.
‘Silver Moon’ is 5-6 pound hybrid white pumpkin, with a flat, uniform shape and wide ribs. The vine is resistant to powdery mildew and zucchini yellows mosaic virus, making it easy to grow. The flesh is dark orange in color and has a sweet flavor.
The ‘Dark Knight’ pumpkin is a dark green to black color when harvested early, has an attractive oval shape with moderate deep ribbing.
The ever-popular pumpkin we call ‘Cinderella’ is actually an heirloom variety selected from ‘Rouge vif d’Etampes’ in France in the 1800s. This pumpkin has a distinct red-orange color, broad ridges, and exceptional flattening which makes it easily stackable for decorating. Its rich, thick flesh is moist and custard-like with a sweet flavor and it is prized as a superior dessert pumpkin.
In 2012, we featured a straw-art dragon as part of our fall display. It was originally built out of recycled topiary forms by Steve Kennamer, and covered with Bermuda hay by Amanda Maples and Tracy Cook.
This year, the dragon has returned as part of our Mythical & Magical Scarecrows of Legend exhibit- made of pumpkins! Numerous volunteers and Horticulture staff helped to bring the dragon back to life this year.
Mums are popular fall plantings, but…
Garden mums are perennials that produce underground stolons and are cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 11 if planted in the spring. Fall planting, while popular, often does not give the plants time to establish before cold weather comes so they are treated as a horticultural annual. If planting for more than one season, plant mums in well-drained, evenly moist soil in full sun. Chrysanthemums do not like wet soils and will rot if drainage isn’t adequate. If you have a heavy clay soils, amend the soil with compost at planting. Mums like supplemental fertilizer throughout the growing season to promote heavy blooming. Some good companion plants include Sedums, Asters, and ornamental grasses.
Cody McWhorter, HBG Greenhouse Manager, grew seven Chrysanthemum varieties for our display gardens this year. New “no-pinch” cultivars were chosen for early-mid bloom period, broad color availability, disease resistance, and –of course – no pinching or growth regulator was needed to force branching to create the desirable dense canopy. They have exceeded expectations during the crop cycle, although they like a lot of water and fertilizer to grow quickly.
Here are some sneak peaks of early opening mums on display:
Chrysanthemum morifolium ‘Honeyblush Yellow’
‘Honeyblush Yellow’ has a fantastic rich yellow bloom color, long bloom period, tight growth habit, and striking dark green foliage. It attracts butterflies and is frost tolerant.
Chrysanthemum morifolium ‘Stellar Purple’
‘Stellar Purple’ is low maintenance, is heat and frost tolerant, and attracts butterflies.
‘Petit Orange’ is covered in stunning orange daisy-like flowers with yellow eyes at the ends of short stems from early to late fall. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its fragrant fern-like leaves remain dark green in color throughout the season.