Monday, September 17, 2012

Secrets to Growing Mums

Fall is coming and the blooms in our gardens are bowing their heads for a rest. But take heart. The mums are coming! It won't be long before their vibrant colors and shapes splash and explode in your garden.  I say explode because....

Grown by Pat Stockett Johnston
many look like a firecracker. Bang!

I’d like to introduce you to Pat, who recently took up the fascinating hobby of growing mums.  She is quite the firecracker herself as she always has the gusto to try something new. Pat is a member of my writers critique group and has just published a clever book entitled, "Mums the Word: Secrets to Growing Chrysanthemums for Home and Show." I say clever, because she explains her craft in simple fashion and if you follow her advice, everyone will think you are quite a clever gardener.

Grown by Pat

The book was published by G8 Press. To take a look at her book go here.

Pat is a very interesting person aside from growing mums. I caught up with her the other day and asked if she would tell us a little about her life.
Pat, tell us what countries you have lived in and a little about your work.

I lived overseas for 34 years as a career missionary with the Church of the Nazarene. Our first seven years were in Beirut, Lebanon—a beautiful, fascinating country, reeking with ancient history. The ruins of Byblos, Sidon, and  Baalbek are fabulous. The Lebanese Civil War forced us to leave the country.

Next we were assigned to Amman, Jordan, for five years. Still Arabic-speaking people, but with 95% of the people followers of Islam. This high, desert country had its own beauty. And Amman was an intriguing, beautiful city. Plus the whole country was an archeological site. We especially enjoyed Petra, Pella, the Roman ruins of the city of Jerash, Jesus’ Baptismal Site at the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea.

pd image
Next followed 14 years in the Pacific Island country of Papua New Guinea, located just north of Australia. You couldn’t beat the weather at 5,000 ft. altitude of the Western Highlands Province. Rained over 250 inches a year. No seasons. Just a wet season and a wetter season.

Our last seven years were spent back in Amman. Jordan had signed a peace treaty with Israel while we were in Papua New Guinea, so that allowed us many opportunities to visit Israel. A 3-week History and Geography course at Jerusalem College University gave us the opportunity to see the country—Dan to Beersheba, Jericho to Haifa. I’d visit Israel at the drop of a hat. Never got tired of visiting biblical sites there.

Did you cultivate any gardens when you were in the Middle East?

We mostly lived in high-rise apartment buildings in the Middle East that offered no private gardens. But that didn't matter, for I had a brown thumb. No house plant survived for more than a month under my care!

Grown by Pat
Ha! Ha! That's hard to believe.
You have published several books about your experiences overseas. Is this your first gardening book?

Previously I wrote seven books for my church’s missions education program. The fact that I could actually keep a plant alive for more than a month was surprising. The fact that I can grow beautiful, prize-winning chrysanthemums is a miracle.

Well if you can, maybe we can too!
How is the book doing?  Any interesting calls for copies?

The publisher has not provided me with the number of books that have sold. But I do know that Kings Mums catalog is selling the book in its 2013 catalog for rooted mums cuttings.

Is it really true that ANYONE can grow mums?  What about those of us with a “brown thumb”.

I think it’s important to have mentoring when trying out new activities. I joined the Descanso Chrysanthemum Society and its members shed light on how to grow them. But like most plants, mums need good soil, fertilizer, watering, insecticides, and regular care. Show mums are grown in pots, and demand only six hours of sun a day. Honestly, if I can grow them, anyone can!

I am stunned by the variety and different styles and colors of the Mums. How many kinds of Mums are there?

There are 13 classes of mums grown for show exhibitions. Here’s the link to my YouTube 1-minute video that shows an example of each class bloom.

Oh my goodness—that was beautiful! Readers---go here and watch the gentle dance of 13 mums.

In your book, I like the step by step instructions with pictures…for example, the section “How to Plant Cuttings from Last Years’ Mums”.  Who took the pictures of your hands performing the tasks? 

My husband Gordon took the pictures. We are a mums-growing team. He does the watering, fertilizing, transferring to bigger pots, and sprays for insects and worms. I have smaller hands, so I disbud unwanted new growth and stake the stems. We make a great team!

How can we purchase a book?

Grown by Pat

At Learn more about me on my author’s page by going to the Mums the Word Amazon page and clicking on my name.

Thank you for all the work you have done to help us grow these beautiful flowers.

Your welcome!

Click here to visit Pat's blog.