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Time to Buy the Mums

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Welcome to The Weeding Gnome By: Angela Treadwell-Palmer & Plants Nouveau

— November 14, 2014 —   

It’s Time to Buy the Mums

Wow! Time sure does fly. The Polar Vortex is making its way across the US, yet it seems like we were just trying to fit in our last summer beach day. Where does the time go?

Seasons change. Speaking of seasons, while preparing for a lecture on European trends for the Independent Plant Breeder’s Conference a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany. Before you say, “Ut-oh, here she goes”, or run away screaming, please read on.

I’m always trying to equate European trends and gardening habits with selling more plants, so I started looking at the times of year American’s buy plants. I came up with a few times, but the time of year when people go out to buy their fall mums was by far the most popular.

For a few years, my kids have been making fun of fall mums. I must confess that this is all my fault. I’m not a huge fan. I love many plants in the Chrysanthemum genus, but the ones we see each year on people’s front porches, in their pots, and planted along gas station curbs make me want to gag.

It all started one day when we were shopping at a local apple farm. I over heard not one, not two, but three couples say, “It’s time to buy some mums”. Of course, my cynical mind goes directly to questioning why. And then I repeated – It’s time to buy the mums- It’s time to buy the mums- It’s time to buy the mums – in a very low, maniacal voice. My kids loved it and now every time we are out in the fall and they hear someone say something about getting mums, they look at me and whisper, “It’s time to buy the mums!”, quietly, so no one can her them.

I know – I’m a bad mother.

I knew it when my now 12 year old, then 7 year old yelled “Old as dirt!” out the car window as we passed an elderly driver that had been holding us up. They retain and repeat everything we say.

684d4472-16d6-4ffa-be0b-c01aaf402147Lest I digress any further, let’s get back to why consumers feel the need to buy mums in the fall. Who told consumers mums were the one and only plant they need for fall decorating? Why do they NEED them? I l know garden centers try to sell other plants in the fall, but honestly, the majority of plants going out the door are mums.

I get it. They are buying plants and I need to get over it. Mums are pretty, I suppose, but the horticulturist in me says there are so many more exciting, more utilitarian plants that they could be buying – and that goes for more exciting forms of mums too.

But that’s totally NOT the point!

The point is these folks are buying plants and we want people to buy plants. We want people to garden. Are the consumers buying mums really gardeners? Should we feel lucky they buy anything?

And then it dawned on me. To these consumers, it’s a tradition, it’s not really gardening. Hmm…think about that. It’s NOT gardening. The main complaint we hear from consumers is gardening is too much work, right? That’s what all the latest market research says too. Buying mums and poinsettias isn’t considered work to these consumers, but I hate to tell them – whether they like it or not, they ARE gardening. Hehe – we tricked them into it.

Here’s a question – what else can we “trick” them into buying? I use trick in a non-literal way, but you know what I mean. Perhaps a better word is “train”? I analyzed the times each year when people who don’t really garden go into a home store, apple farm, garden center, etc., and buy “traditional” plants. So, there’s Easter, when they flock to roadside stands for lilies. Then comes Mother’s Day, when the traditional gift is a lily or forced hydrangea. Then there’s fall when they must get their mums. Finally, there’s Christmas when a large majority of American’s rush in to get a poinsettia and a Christmas tree. Don’t forget about Christmas trees – they are plants too. 

I thought about these times and then came the epiphany-a light bulb if you will.

If we want to sell more plants and get more people gardening, how do we make more plants part of our American traditions?

The person or company who taught people to buy mums in the fall was brilliant. It’s been happening for decades. I’ve got a gut feeling those same people are buying poinsettias and Christmas trees too. I’m not sure how long the Easter/Mother’s day plant tradition has been going on, but I’m guessing at least as long as I’ve been alive – and probably MUCH longer.

And… as much as I dislike mums, it IS brilliant. It’s on people’s calendars; built into their DNA and something they think they CAN’T live without. It truly is marketing genius.

Chew on this… How can we get people as excited about spring bulbs, summer perennials/annuals, ornamental grasses and the brilliant fall color of so many ornamental shrubs and trees, and I’ll even throw in other throw-away plants and cut flowers, as they are about mums? How do we make gardening an American tradition, much like it is in Europe?

I’ve got it! “Time to buy the Metasequoia glyptostroboides!”. Haha, I threw that in for my plant geek friends – you know who you are – but seriously… got any brilliant ideas?  I’d love to hear them.  Let’s chat!

Speaking of fall color, did you realize some coneflowers have excellent fall color? Not only do they look great all summer, they feed the birds with their seeds, and then they have brilliant spaghetti squash-yellow fall color.

(Sidebar: Can you tell my kitchen is being over-run with squash from my fall CSA share? And that the brilliant yellow color of the huge spaghetti squash sitting on my butcher block has been burned into my corneas? We MUST have that for dinner tonight.) What’s not to love about a plant named Milkshake anyway? Check out this week’s Garden Notes below. Not only is it my all-time favorite coneflower, but it has incredible fall color. It’s quite possibly coneflower perfection.

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend, eat some squash, and Happy Weeding!


Angela Treadwell-Palmer
Plants Nouveau, LLC.
Founder and Co-owner, Strategic plant finder, In Charge of Magic

Angela’s Garden Notes 

Echinacea Cone-fections‘Milkshake’ PP#20594

This could be the best double white echinacea for the mid-border. Milkshake is “regular” sized. It’s not tall, it’s not dwarf, it’s just the right size for all you coneflower traditionalists out there.
Blooms are held high on strong, sturdy stems and they do not age until fall. It’s as if they are fake flowers. Milkshake grows 36-40 inches tall and 24-30 inches wide.  It has proven hardy to USDA zone 5 and grows well from Vermont to North Carolina, from Minnesota  to Oklahoma and Texas.  It’s one versatile, hardy coneflower and we are proud to have it in our Cone-fections™ line.

The plant is also very sturdy and strong. Each mature plant holds 40-50 blooms (the same ones since early June…) high with great confidence and no sign of flopping. The blooms are large and fully double, and they are almost true white, with a hint of french vanilla milkshake-y-ness.

Read more about Milkshake here.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Jane Gloom June 17, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    There sooo pretty. I sure would love to get my hands on some. Do you sell to individuals or only wholesale?

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