With all those mums and pumpkins at garden centers and farmers markets, how can we select the best and make them last?
For an immediate impact, many people choose chrysanthemums (“mums”) in full bloom. But I prefer to select plants with tight buds that are just starting to show color. Plants with the fewest open flowers now will have a showy display for much longer.
For best flowering, place your mums in a sunny location and water often. Letting them wilt will end the show. Although many gardeners regard mums as annual plants and “kick them to the curb” after they fade, most varieties will overwinter after transplanting into the garden and come back next year. For more information, see HGIC 1161, Chrysanthemum.
Here are some tips on picking the best pumpkins to display with your beautiful mums:
- Avoid pumpkins that have cracks or splits, soft spots, or sunken areas.
- A mature pumpkin will resist scratching. If the surface is easily penetrated by gently pressing your fingernail into the rind, the pumpkin was picked too early and will rot.
- Check for a firm, bright green stem, which indicates freshness. A dry, shriveled stem means the pumpkin has been stored for a long time and will not remain fresh throughout the fall decorating season.
- Carry your pumpkin in your arms, not by the stem. Once the stem breaks off, pumpkin decay is not far behind.
- Match the pumpkin to its purpose. For a carved jack-o-lantern, select a large, uniform shaped pumpkin. For pumpkin pie or other recipes, choose small, heavy fruits (a.k.a. pie pumpkins or winter squash, which have more pulp).
- Pumpkins store best under cooler conditions. Wipe them off with a 10% bleach solution (1-part bleach to 9 parts water) to reduce decay.
For more information on pumpkins, see HGIC 1318, Pumpkins & Winter Squash.