These clump-forming perennials of the Asteraceae family - known as florists' chrysanthemums - flower in May, just in time for Mother's Day, when bunches of them can be seen for sale on the side of the road as you drive to visit your mum! There are many different shapes of their flowers to be had, in quills, buttons, spiders, bouffants, pompons and just simple single daisies. Some are amazingly huge and don't really fit into a normal garden setting, seeming more suited to life in a vase or on a show bench. I prefer just the small, single or semi-double ones which don't get too tall. Florists' chrysanthemums come in an array of colours, including autumnal tints such as russet, butterscotch, apricot and brassy yellow which mirroring the leaves of deciduous trees which by then will have begun to glow with tawny colour. There are also cooler colours to be had, such as pinks, purples, lavenders, white and burgundy. There are innumerable named forms.
They do give a great display in the garden and their rounded form is an excellent contrast to the spires of the many autumn-flowering Salvia which are out at the same time. They are easy to grow, thriving best in reasonable soil in a sunny position. They can also be grown in pots for a temporary seasonal display, even indoors in a brightly lit position. They make excellent cut flowers.
The taller varieties need staking, though pinching the growing stems back through spring and early summer will ensure a bushier, shorter plant. If staking is necessary, do this earlier rather than later when the plants have already sprawled everywhere! They are all herbaceous, dying down each winter, and it is best to divide them in spring to maintain vigour. They are easily propagated from the small rooted sideshoots.