Once a Very Serious Matter
Chrysanthemums exist in dozens of varieties. Fuji mums project rays with
curly ends. Spider mums have straight-ended rays. Starburst mums have
forked ends, while spoon-ended mums have a loop at the end of their
rays. China mums are called "standard" and "football" because of their
large, round heads. Daisy-like mums are called pompons. And those
forming tight little balls are called button pomps.
These lush, colorful blooms are
rooted in beliefs of human immortality and perfection. Today the "mum"
graces gardens, cut flower arrangements and even salads (yes mums taste
great), but they were taken much more seriously after T'ao Yuan Ming
started it all in China around 500 A.D.
Over long periods of careful cross-pollination and selection, he
developed stunning varieties of the flower and when he died, his
birthplace was renamed Chuhsien. The City of Chrysanthemums. His efforts
had produced a legacy that would bring pleasure to this world for
When China imported the first chrysanthemums to Japan, the people there
bestowed many honors upon them. The Japanese wrote legends. To sip dew
from the petals meant long life. To eat the flower meant immortality.
Philosophers said that the systematic opening of the "ray" flowers
symbolized both the sun and the perfection of orderly life.
By 800 A.D. the chrysanthemum had become so prestigious that only royal
and noble families were permitted to cultivate it. Among the highest
honors that could be bestowed in Japan was admittance to the Order of
the Chrysanthemum... a reward granted to nobility for service to the
In great contrast to this, the "mum" didn't make much of an impression
when traders introduced it to Europe in the 1600s. But when in finally
did catch on, it became one of the most popular blooms for both flower
shops and gardens.
Whether associated with royalty or
immortality, "mum" is the word for beautiful gardens and long-lasting
floral arrangements. When you care for them as cut flowers, try to keep
their ancient beauty away from air
conditioning, TV sets and heaters. Don't place them in drafts or direct
sunlight. Do watch their water, and replace it when needed.
This way, a
bouquet of mums can make your day every day for at least a week, maybe
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