Bah Mum Bug!
I love fall. I haven’t really experienced fall since I was a young girl until last year when I moved to the South Carolina Upstate. Until last year, fall was just a time that leaves fell off trees more so because of the lack of rain rather than a seasonal change. Kids trick-or-treated in their shorts and football season was hot. That’s what it is like to experience fall in Central Texas. But here…the leaves turn brilliant colors and it rains, and it actually cools down gradually over a period of months. Amazing!
I’m pretty sure I drove people crazy last year oogling over the fall colors, snapping pictures like a crazy fool, and pointing out the colors to people who experience this every year. I know they were ready to pack me up and send me back from whence I came. I’ve calmed down a bit this year even though I wasn’t sure that fall really was going to happen AGAIN at the SAME TIME but it did! Wow…just wow.
With the seasonal change comes the mum. The mum is the queen of fall flowers. She is everywhere. Big blobs of color show up in every nursery and big box store as far as the eye can see. People snap them up, take them home, and plop them in containers surrounded by pumpkins, gourds, and all things fall harvest. There is nothing really wrong with this ritualistic practice…it’s just over done and not very creative.
These would be consider “tasteful” compared to other homecoming mums.
Now when I think of mums, I think of Texas football homecoming. Somewhere in the evolution of mankind the mum became the flower that a girl receives from her date to wear during homecoming festivities. It began as a simple (albeit) large corsage. But, as with all things Texan, it expanded over time and became something that looks more like a garage sale than a corsage. (I don’t mean to suggest that looking like a garage sale is Texan. However, expanding is very Texan…in size. You know…everything is bigger in Texas kind of thing.)
I’m sure it is becoming apparent that mums, or rather the overuse and adulteration of these fall beauties, are not my favorite. I do like mums as fall decor…just not as mass blobs. They remind me of the meatball bushes that I am so terribly fond of. <cough, cough> So let’s take a look at some ideas for using mums and other plants in your fall decor without it looking like…well…everyone else’s big balls of fall color.
The Quilt Garden at the NC Arboretum is a wonderful example of the use of mums. While you probably won’t be planting on this large of a scale, this serves the purpose of giving you some inspiration for containers. I particularly love the rusty red color of these mums.
The Quilt Garden at the NC Arboretum is planted seasonally.
In this garden at the NC Arboretum, mums were paired with sweet potato vines to provide a wonderfully, colorful seasonal combination. Again…inspiration.
Mums paired with sweet potato vine.
My objection with mums is that they generally are not used very creatively. Typically they are dropped in pots and lined up in rows, looking like plump little soldiers. Then the obligatory pumpkin, squash, or gourd is stacked neatly nearby.
Instead of the usual mum, pumpkin, gourd lineup, shake it up a bit by making a colorful pot the center of attention. In this display, the navy container draws the eye in. The pumpkins play a secondary role while the mums work more like a background.
Instead of mums, consider using asters in containers to make a fall arrangement. Other useful plants are ornamental cabbage, flowering kale, heuchara, swiss chard, rudbeckia, and mustard greens.
Various grasses are at their peak in the fall. Their graceful form and seedheads make wonderful arrangements. Here ornamental millet, gold mums, and tan carex are used.
I found this arrangement to be both eye-catching and fun. Ornamental grasses are bundled to represent the fall harvest.
This beautiful fall arrangement includes fairytale pumpkins…a favorite of mine.
As you venture out to gather your fall goodies, get a little crazy and let your creative self bust loose. Try something different. Break the rules! Play with colors and textures and combinations of plants to achieve just the right look for you. Just don’t go homecoming-mum crazy!
Now get out there and get your mum on…