Winter Protection For Chrysanthemums
Eventually we may have many varieties of garden, often called hardy, chrysanthemums which are reliably hardy everywhere. At present, I know of no cut-flower variety, such as Lavender Lady, Red Riding Hood, Allegro and the various spoons, that can be depended upon to survive our Winters without protection. Three varieties which have lived through several years without Winter-protection are Chestnut Burr, Cocheco and Ember. The first two are rather dwarf, and the latter is too late blooming to be of much value.
Many plants survive the Winter only to succumb during the climatic vagaries of March. However, for their beauty and long-lasting quality as cut flowers, mums are worth the time necessary to protect them through the Winter.
One of the most essential requirements of the chrysanthemum is to be sure it has good drainage. The plants cannot stand wet feet nor can they be buried beneath a layer of ice for any great length of time. Peat moss, which is an excellent mulch during the Summer, is of no value in the Winter. In fact, its most valuable propensity of holding water is a decided detriment in the Winter. If used as a covering it will cause rotting of the plants.
The best protection for the plants is a deep cold frame – part of our garden landscaping plan. I usually dig three to ten plants of each variety in late October or early November and set them close together in the frame. They are not really transplanted (which means digging a hole and then pushing the dirt hard around each plant). When the plants are all in the frame, I throw a few shovelfuls of dirt about the clumps to cover the roots. They are then well watered. My frames are covered with glass all Winter, as I divide mine in late March. Usually the plants are four inches by then.
Where sash is not used, the plants may be covered in the frame with straw, cranberry vines, glass snow, leaves or evergreen branches. If leaves are used they should be scattered over the plants so they will not pack down. If the plants were not cut back severely, the stems will keep the leaves from becoming a soggy mat when the rains come. Birch brush, which I used as a support for sweet pea vines in the Spring, may be placed over the chrysanthemums and the leaves allowed to drift through the branches. Evergreen boughs are excellent.
The above coverings may be used on plants not put in a frame but left in the garden. Using your garden shed whilst doing this can make the job a little easier but some just get on with it outside in the open.
CAUTION: No covering or protection of any kind should be used until the ground is frozen solidly. To do so is to invite all the field mice and rats in the neighborhood to make their Winter-home there, with the result that your chrysanthemums are nil in the Spring.
The best protection of all is a good covering of snow from the time the ground is frozen until late March.
Before freezing weather sets in, I add one to two inches of dirt (sand is good) around each plant. This prevents the breaking of roots, which may be close to the surface, during periods of alternate freezing and thawing.