Mumtastic Mums!

obilisque 1206The fall mum display at the Chicago Botanic Garden is an annual tradition that requires careful planning and attention to detail. We wanted to let you know what it takes to grow over 13,000 mums each year and train them into interesting shapes and forms.

The first mums you’ll notice are located at the entrance to the Visitor Center. Four 10-foot tall obelisk-shaped mum towers were planted with gold colored mums, named ‘Golden Spell.’ The obelisks are fitted with an internal watering system that allows for easier and even water distribution to the sides of the towers. About 260 plants go into each one of these towers and it takes about 6-12 hours each week to maintain them through the summer months.

Mum Hayracks 2007_WCB9112

Our fall hayracks cascade over the bridge between the Visitor Center and the Crescent Garden. We grow two sets of these to provide blooms throughout the fall season. Each set lasts from 3-4 weeks. This year we grew a yellow anemone type named ‘Megumi’ and a bronze colored daisy type mum named ‘Vernal Falls’.  Starting in February, we take all the cuttings for the hayracks from our stock of plants. Fifteen plants go into each hayrack frame and it takes 24 hayracks and 6 side planters to cover the bridge. We spend about 16-20 hours per week training the stems to grow down instead of up. We weigh the stems down with hexagon nuts and spend the summer pinching and trimming the plants to maintain the shape.

PHOTO: Mums being trained to a basket shape.

We also plant 108 giant mum containers for the display in the Esplanade and other gardens. Starting in June, with the help of our summer interns, we spend three days planting about 40-70 plants in each container. We use hanging basket frames to train the mums into a rounded shape. We shear the to_RJC3228 Esplanade Mumsps twice during the summer and use growth regulators to keep the growth compact.  The last shearing is done no later than July 22. We are constantly feeding the mums and watering every other day to keep them in good health.


Finally, we planted two varieties of cascading mums this year in the Malott Japanese Garden: a white anemone flowered mum, named ‘Snowfall,’ and a yellow mum, named ‘Megumi.’ These mums are trained to cascade down a mesh screen.Cascade Mums_WCB0293

Sunflowers in the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden

Have you seen the sunflowers in the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden this month? Let’s take a closer look to see what’s going on.

PHOTO: Sunflower nodding down toward the ground.

Many of the blossoms have lost their yellow petals and are bending down.
We need to take a closer look.

PHOTO: Very close up picture of a sunflower.

Just a little closer …

PHOTO: Extreeme close up of the middle of a sunflower, showing the tiny florets and sunflower seeds.


Now you can see that one sunflower is actually made of hundreds of very small flowers. Notice the tiny, yellow, pointed petals of the individual flowers. Each blossom produces one seed. You can see the seeds where they have matured at the top edge of this sunflower. Can you find the spot where one seed is missing? Perhaps it fell out or was eaten by bird.

Sunflowers are what we call “composite” flowers, so named because they are composed of many florets growing so close together they appear to be one flower. If you look carefully at the arrangement of the flowers and seeds, you might notice a spiral pattern.

Other composite flowers you may know are daisies, dandelions, and mums. There are many composite flowers blooming at the Chicago Botanic Garden right now. Come for a visit to check it out, and bring your favorite magnifier so you can take a closer look at the real thing.

Visit for more information on the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden.

What to see on the first day of fall

Boyce Tankersley, Director of Living Plant Documentation, takes us on a tour of what’s blooming in the display gardens on the first day of fall.

Sweeps of perennials on Evening Island, the cascading mums on the Visitor Center bridge, and masses of mums in the Crescent Garden, are found in the boundaries of our formal garden areas. Our show doesn’t end there, however — find gorgeous asters and sunflowers in the English Walled Garden, Japanese anemones and Endless Summer hydrangeas in the Waterfall Garden, mums mixed with later blooming annuals like zinnias and rudbeckia in the Sensory Garden, and an amazing array of colorful annuals in the Circle Garden.

We only visited six of the 25 display gardens, so come out to see them all this fall! Visit for more information on what’s in bloom.

Tru Blooms Chicago Preview

A city with the motto “Urbs in Horto” (Latin for “City in a Garden”) deserves a signature fragrance: Tru Blooms Chicago debuts this fall as our fair city’s first-ever fine perfume. Today, the Chicago Botanic Garden held a preview of the fragrance and we personally enjoyed the lovely floral scent. Here’s why it’s a standout: it’s made with flowers grown in urban gardens throughout the Chicago area. Continue reading Tru Blooms Chicago Preview