By Kathryn Stocks
If you want to know anything about growing gorgeous chrysanthemums, Centennial’s Roy Fox is the man you want to see. He couldn’t say whether growing the flowers is a hobby, a passion or a distraction, but Roy’s massive backyard contains eight large garden beds where he plants his award-winning mums. Even though he’s 86, he still does all the gardening himself. “I like to dig my own garden,” he said.
Roy first became interested in growing chrysanthemums in 1960 when he went to an exhibition at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. “I’m going to grow some of that stuff,” he told himself at the time. He sent to the U.K. for plants and he’s been growing them ever since.
Now these aren’t your average mums that appear at every nursery and hardware chain in the fall. No, his mums are enormous. Their large round heads can be 8” in diameter and their stems grow from 3 feet to 5 ½ feet tall. They come in a range of colours and they are stunning.
Roy has a greenhouse in his yard where he keeps the plants alive all winter at 45°F. When he wants them to start growing, he raises the temperature to 55°F. The plants are potted and tagged and he starts putting them into the ground around the first or second week of May. With 34 mums in eight beds, he has to plant 272 plants. He said he has about 45 different varieties.
Since mums are a fall flower, he stops them by pinching the tops off. He wants them to be at their peak for the Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society’s shows in Hamilton and Markham in September. The shows exhibit and judge members’ flowers and then have an auction of the blooms. Roy is one of the oldest directors of the society, which he joined in 1967.
With chrysanthemums, you can grow four side shoots. Roy said he grows three — two for show and one for insurance in case something happens to one of the other two. To show them, he needs long stems so the blooms can be staggered in a vase without touching each other. He takes 50 to 60 blooms to the show in Markham.
It’s too late to buy chrysanthemum cuttings this year but if you’re interested, Roy and his daughter usually attend Scarborough Seedy Saturday and the plant sale at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, which are both held in May. For more information, check out www.mumsanddahlias.com next winter for the Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society’s plant sale dates and locations.