Garden Mastery: Chrysanthemums fill our region with brilliant fall colors

Our gardening neighbors in the Midwestern, Eastern and Northern states welcome their fall season in predictable ways. The sun rises later in the morning, setting a bit earlier in the evening. Nighttime temperatures begin to dip. Bird species begin their southward migration to warmer climates. The real fall showstopper in these parts of our country is the dazzling display of leaves beginning to change color, from gold to reddish-orange, from crimson to brown.

The Southern California fall season is shorter in duration. Changes to our landscape and gardens arrive slowly, are more subtle and are too soon gone. While we don’t have the display of leaves changing color all around us, we do begin to notice that our garden plants are now beyond their peak, and bloomers have finished flowering.

It’s at this time of year that I wish for just a little something to brighten up my garden landscape. And then I find just what I was wishing for — at the supermarket, of all places! I spot rows of potted chrysanthemums, all wrapped in vivid foil colors. Yes, fall has arrived in Southern California.

These past several months, you may not have been able to travel farther than your local grocery or home improvement store. So, let me invite you to a virtual armchair “historical tour” on chrysanthemums. We’ll travel far and back in time to learn about this flower and plant.

Chrysanthemums, often called by their shortened name “mums,” naturally flower in the fall when days are short and nights are long. With blooms lasting for weeks, mums are easy to grow and come in a variety of sizes and colors. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them by their common names: pompon, button, spray, cushion, spider and florist’s mums, a special variety bred to have long stems. Did you know that mums also enjoy some interesting symbolic meanings? Depending on which part of the world you come from, the flower can symbolize life and vitality, or death and sorrow.

Chrysanthemums are in the Asteraceae plant family and have a long and interesting history. Originating in Asia, where they were cultivated as a medicinal herb, chrysanthemums were introduced to Japan in the fifth century and are considered a symbol of the country itself. The Japanese call the chrysanthemum “kiku”; the flower blossom is the imperial crest for the Japanese royal family and is the country’s national flower. By the 17th century, the chrysanthemum was brought to Europe. The first flowers seen by Europeans may have been small, yellow and daisylike. Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, gave the chrysanthemum its Latin name from the Greek words chrysous, meaning “golden,” and anthemon, meaning “flower.”

First introduced to the U.S. during colonial times, the chrysanthemum gained ever-increasing popularity by the late 19th century with garden clubs promoting their special collections of new varieties. Today, gardeners can learn about all chrysanthemum flower types from the National Chrysanthemum Society’s classification system. The society’s website lists the flowers according to 13

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Garden Mastery: Here’s how to identify and manage insect pests in your garden

Summer is the “time of the garden,” when flowers are riotously blooming and fruit and vegetables are ripening. However, you may find you’re not the only one enjoying the fruits of your labors.

In order to support their next generation, many nonvertebrate pests, such as aphids and snails, may be eating leaves, dining on fruit, and sucking juices out of your plants.

How can you manage these pests? First, you must ask yourself: How much are you willing to share your garden with wildlife?

While there is no wrong or right answer to this question, all gardeners need to draw a line at the amount of damage they are willing to endure. A garden is an ecosystem of plants and animals, with many interdependent parts. Eliminating one or more elements can affect the entire system.

Begin by identifying what is damaging your plants. While birds and other animals may be the cause, in this article we’ll focus on insect pests. This can be a challenge, given the hundreds of insect species in San Diego. Many insects are beneficial to your garden, as they pollinate your plants, eat or parasitize harmful insects, and add to the overall enjoyment of your efforts. But other insects are destructive, such as the tomato hornworm — just one can destroy an entire tomato plant very quickly.

There are many resources to help you identify what is damaging your plant. If you can actually see the culprit on its damaged host plant, you can ask other gardeners’ advice, visit local certified nurseries (bring a sample in a closed plastic bag), or contact the San Diego Master Gardeners’ Hotline (858) 822-6910 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays for assistance.

You can also check the University of California Integrated Pest Management (IPM) website Pest Notes or the Plant Problem Diagnostic tool (both found at If you can see the damage but not the perpetrator, you can research via garden books, and at the University of California Integrated Pest Management (IPM) website.

The eggs on these fiber stocks are Green Lacewing eggs. The larvae stage prey upon a large number of insect pests.

Friend or foe? The eggs on the fiber stocks are Green Lacewing eggs. The larvae stage of this insect prey upon a large number of insect pests, making them beneficial in your garden.

(Regents of the University of California)

After identification, your next step is to understand the life cycle of the pest and then weigh the benefits of controlling now against the benefits at a later life stage. For example, the aforementioned and dreaded tomato hornworm metamorphizes into the large sphinx moth, a nighttime pollinator important to pitahaya and other night-blooming plants. And many caterpillars are only present for a month or so before they become beautiful butterflies, so eliminating them after you have already picked most of your crop might not be worth your time and effort.

Like its name suggests, the IPM system uses an integrated method for managing pests of all types. Once you have chosen your source for pest management, monitor the effectiveness of the methods used.

Prevention is always

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