Chrysanthemums & Flowers
By Steve Wilcott
Chrysanthemums: Once a Very Serious Matter
Did you know that those lush, colorful blooms called chrysanthemums are rooted
in beliefs of human immortality and perfection? Today the "mum" graces gardens,
cut flower arrangements and even salads (yes mums taste great), but they were
taken much more seriously after T'ao Yuan Ming started it all in China around
Over long periods of careful cross-pollination and selection, he developed
stunning varieties of the flower and when he died, his birthplace was renamed
Chuhsien. The City of Chrysanthemums. His efforts had produced a legacy that
would bring pleasure to this world for centuries.
When China imported the first chrysanthemums to Japan, the people there bestowed
many honors upon them. The Japanese wrote legends. To sip dew from the petals
meant long life. To eat the flower meant immortality. Philosophers said that the
systematic opening of the "ray" flowers symbolized both the sun and the
perfection of orderly life.
By 800 A.D. the chrysanthemum had become so prestigious that only royal and
noble families were permitted to cultivate it. Among the highest honors that
could be bestowed in Japan was admittance to the Order of the Chrysanthemum... a
reward granted to nobility for service to the Emperor.
In great contrast to this, the "mum" didn't make much of an impression when
traders introduced it to Europe in the 1600s. But when in finally did catch on,
it became one of the most popular blooms for both flower shops and gardens.
Today the mum comes in dozens of varieties. Fuji mums project rays with curly
ends. Spider mums have straight-ended rays. Starburst mums have forked ends,
while spoon-ended mums have a loop at the end of their rays. China mums are
called "standard" and "football" because of their large, round heads. Daisy-like
mums are called pompons. And those forming tight little balls are called button
Whether associated with spoons, forks or footballs, or with royalty or
immortality, "mum" is the word for beautiful gardens and long-lasting floral
arrangements. When you care for them as cut flowers, try to keep their ancient
beauty away from such modern-day contraptions as air conditioning, TV sets and
heaters. Don't place them in drafts or direct sunlight. Do watch their water,
and replace it when needed. This way, a bouquet of mums can make your day every
day for at least a week, maybe two.
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