On Wednesday January 18th, the BRHS had a talk on chrysanthemums by Ken Dear from the National Chrysanthemum Society.
He has been a fan for the past 60 years as his father used to grow them in their Harrow railway embankment allotment. Ken remembers the growers sending off their chrysanthemums in the guards van on the train, boxed up and separated with bamboo canes.
Ken grows his chrysanthemums in his greenhouses, and then brings them out into cold frames to harden off. One of his greenhouses was burnt down, but it has not deterred him at all. Early chrysanthemums flower in September and lates are in November. Paper bags can be used to protest the blooms from the weather. They also keep pest and disease from the bud.
As an industrial chemist by trade, Ken mixes his own soilless compost. He showed us some slides of different types of chrysanthemums ranging from single, anemone, curved, reflexed, pompom and spray. The single and anemone are the best for perfume and also for bees and butterflies. Ken's nickname in growing circles is ‘Red Ken’, as he had love of red coloured blooms, his favourite being Red Cloak.
Here in the UK we like to perfect the individual blooms, which will get marked down for any blemishes. The exhibitors like to ‘dress’ the blooms, where they will manipulate the petals into the correct place, this all takes time and patience.
In the 1970's there were 14,000 members of the National Chrysanthemum Society, now it is down to 1,000. Ken showed us some spectacular photographs of spray chrysanthemums gown in Japan and the US. The chrysanthemum is the national flower of Japan and they have compulsory lessons in their secondary schools in how to grow them. Their growing style is very different to ours, they will grow a spray chrysanthemum into a dome shape and Ken showed us a picture on one that had 1399 flowers on it, and it was one plant.