Longwood Gardens Chrysanthemum Show Has 40 Rare Cultivars, From Big To Bonsai [photos]

The chrysanthemums at Longwood Gardens grow long enough to cover 5-foot-wide umbrellas and full enough to fill 6-foot-tall teardrop-shaped hanging baskets.

To train the stars of the Chrysanthemum Festival, growers like Jason Simpson started the botanical boot camp way back in December.

The showpiece thousand-bloom chrysanthemum got its start even earlier, just around the beginning of the pandemic. Through the months when the gardens were closed to the public and staff were down to a skeleton crew, growers continued to tend to mums huge and small.

The 40th Chrysanthemum Festival has more than 5,000 mums grown and trained into a record number of forms, including shields and spirals plus clouds and cascades. The show continues through Nov. 14.

Simpson, senior grower, has grown chrysanthemums since he came to the Kennett Square site in 2004. First, he grew 2,000 to 3,000 pots of mums in the estate houses each year. Then he moved to cascade mums, about a dozen cultivars with small flowers and long trailing stems perfect to train in topiary forms.

He’s one of two growers focusing on the specialty forms, including hanging baskets, cascades wrapping columns and new shapes suggested by Longwood’s designers.

“That’s exciting to figure out how to get this plant to do some new thing that we’ve never done before,” Simpson says.

Longwood Gardens chrysanthemum festival

A few years ago, that meant “stretching” mums into flower-covered swags. The ropes of yellow mums hung above doors of the music room stage in the conservatory. Those forms were cool, unique and a personal favorite, he says.

Contorting chrysanthemums takes a team. Simpson takes the designer’s idea and works with a metal fabricator to create a stainless steel structure to support the plant. Then comes a plan to grow and train the mums and make sure they’re the right size and ready to bloom in time for the show.

The forms might vary but the technique is simple.

“A lot of what I do is directing the plant’s energy to where I want it to go,” he says.

During winter in the greenhouse, Simpson coaxes the main stem of each plant to the length needed for each form.

Longwood Gardens chrysanthemum festival

The plants come outdoors in May and start branching out. By pinching the end of the stems, each plant sends out side branches. Through the summer, the goal is to cover the surface area of the chicken wire-covered structures with branches.

For the teardrop baskets, for example, the roots are inside the top of the frame.

“All summer long, the new branches want to grow up towards the light,” Simpson says.

Every few weeks, a summer crew pinches the branches and ties them down to create the living sculptures that hang in the conservatory.

Longwood Gardens chrysanthemum festival

The environment inside a greenhouse can be controlled. Outdoors, this year’s extreme heat and heavy rains posed challenges.

“I jokingly told a tour the other day, well, Mother Nature didn’t play real nice this year,” he says.

Moisture dripped down to the tip of the teardrop, where there wasn’t a lot of air circulation. That led to fungal disease. Luckily, Simpson had the help of a seasonal crew to remove parts of the huge plants before disease spread.

The forms get their first shaping cuts in July; the last are in early September so the plants have enough time to set buds before the show.

The mum festival is a monthlong event, so many of the plants aren’t in bloom as the show begins. Growers held back the thousand bloom chrysanthemum and Tuesday decided not to put the plant on display. In its place are plants grown the same way, each with more than 200 blooms.

Longwood Gardens chrysanthemum festival

Longwood is undergoing a big construction project. During construction, the western part of the conservatory is closed. The main change to the chrysanthemum exhibit is the smallest mums. Bonsai mums used to be displayed in the western greenhouses. This year, more than two dozen bonsai chrysanthemums are at the Peirce-du Pont House, says Patricia Evans, Longwood’s director of communications.

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Source : https://lancasteronline.com/features/longwood-gardens-chrysanthemum-show-has-40-rare-cultivars-from-big-to-bonsai-photos/article_9a24b2ce-3727-11ec-9b56-eb4517edc5df.html

Longwood Gardens chrysanthemum show has 40+ rare cultivars, from big to bonsai [photos]

Source:Lancaster Online

Longwood Gardens chrysanthemum show has 40+ rare cultivars, from big to bonsai [photos]

Longwood Gardens thousand-bloom chrysanthemum wont go on display this year; What happened?

Source:Lancaster Online

Longwood Gardens thousand-bloom chrysanthemum wont go on display this year; What happened?