I recently received a Longwood Gardens bulletin that gives more details about the Thousand-Blossom Chrysanthemum that will shortly be gone. (See previous posting. Click on the photos to enlarge. Click again to really enlarge.)
The term “Thousand Blossom Chrysanthemum refers to a horticultural process, not an actual plant that may have more or less (probably less) blossoms. This year’s Longwood Gardens chrysanthemum has 1,167 blossoms.
Growing the plant is a two-year process. New cuttings are taken in May, hardened off, and transferred to 4-inch pots. Rooting hormone is applied to scratches in their stems to promote the dense root system necessary to support the huge final plant. During the first summer, the cuttings are grown in a greenhouse lighted at night to prevent flowering. They are pinched back to produce plants about two feet tall with 14–18 shoots, and pinching continues thereafter for every 6–8 leaves. In December, two plants are selected and transferred to special containers with dividers so the amount of soil can be increased as the plants grow. In February, the stems are tied to the first temporary frame. The frame is extended, and pinching continues throughout the second summer until September when disbudding begins to create one blossom on each stem. In October, the best of the two plants is selected for display and the final adjustable frame attached to the container. The plant, now quite large, is brought slowly by truck, escorted by the fire department, from the nursery on the other side of Route 1 to the final display area. The chrysanthemum specialist, Yoko Arakawa, and a team of students, interns, and volunteers arranges the blossoms from the top down over the next ten days or so.
Too late to see this year’s? Next year’s is already half grown. Weekday mornings, my favorite time, is when you can see the work in the Garden being done.