Mum's the word

This time of year is so predictable, from a floral point of view. It's pot-mum madness, which comes before poinsettia madness, which precedes ... you get the picture. I've been taking a pass on mums for this reason. Same colors, same size, same everything, year after year, until my friend Louise shared her Sheffield daisy mums with me last spring. She gave me three small clumps and for quite a while they looked doomed. I consulted with Louise. What am I doing wrong? Keep watering, she said. So I did, and those three small clumps got their acts together and formed one huge mound that a few weeks ago began producing hundreds of buds.

The New England asters are blooming big right now, and this being their fourth season in the garden, they're absolutely gorgeous. Now I have a large mound of peach-colored mums to offset their bright purple and I must say, the effect is stunning, especially since it's late October.

My point here is that the mum world is bigger than the pots you find at the supermarket. In fact, as I'm discovering while reporting on a story about this, the world of mums is enormous, far larger than I ever anticipated. Besides the pot mums, which are also called cushion mums, you'll find anemone, daisy, pompon, spider and several other shapes. And there are a heck of a lot more colors available than the pots' maroon, gold, yellow and orange. Nothing wrong with them - I'm told customers want these fall colors and they're warm and pretty. But I have to wonder which came first - limited choices or customer desire?