WESTMINSTER — As the trees begin to shed their leaves of red, orange and yellow, their bright colors are complimented by the robust hues of fall-blooming flowers -- especially chrysanthemums.
"Chrysanthemums are just lovely; they are truly a fall flower," said Florence Wolfe. "There isnothing more beautiful than a fresh burst of color in the fall afterthe spring flowers have depleted. The mums really add to the season."
Wolfe, who serves as president of the ladies auxiliary for the Westminster Rescue Mission, has a special interest in the fall flower because of the role they play in "Mum Day," one of the organization's annual fund-raising efforts.
"We have been holding Mum Day for thepast six years at the Rescue Mission farm. It has been a special project for the ladies auxiliary, since it helps us raise money for the mission," she explained. "There are 35 men who live out here, and there is always a need for food, bed coverings and curtains. The money we raise from selling the mums goes for these items and is also used to supplement the mission store in Westminster."
Every spring, the ladies auxiliary buys approximately 1,500 plants. The men who live atthe farm, located outside of Westminster on Lucabaugh Mill Road, plant them in May and care for the garden until Mum Day in September.
"This year, out of the 1,500 mums that were planted, roughly 300 survived the summer drought," said Wolfe. "What we did this year was supplement the 300 in the ground with 400 potted plants so that we wouldhave enough."
Potted plants were sold for $3, while plants dug from the ground went for $2. A total of 500 mums were sold; 400 potted and 100 from the ground.
"We usually sell anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500, but I think that the ground mums were not as hearty or plentiful this year, so they didn't attract many buyers," Wolfe said.
Louise Haifley bought several mums to plant at her Manchester home beforegoing south for the winter.
"I am getting ready to go to Florida,but I bought a trunkful of the mums, both potted and grounded," saidthe retired Carroll County school teacher.
Mary Swisher found outabout Mum Day through her neighbor and decided that it was worth thetrip to shop for the hardy perennial plants.
"My neighbor had these mums in her yard and they kept coming back and I wanted to know where she got them," said the Finksburg resident. "I have never had luck with my mums coming back so I thought I would try it here.
"These mums are beautiful and big, and the price is right, too," she added. "I bought both, (potted and grounded), so I am hoping that once I plant them, they'll come back."
Chrysanthemums are technically considered a perennial, but are sometimes planted too late in the season,reducing their chances of survival.
"You should buy mums and plant them by the second week of September," said Tom Ford, a horticulture consultant with the Extension Service in Carroll County. "If they are planted at this time, they have a much better chance of surviving and returning the next year.
"If the plant is potted, it should beremoved and the root system disturbed (broken slightly) so that it will transplant better," Ford said.
Once the plant is thriving and the temperatures begin to drop, continued care will help increase theplant's ability to return the following year.
"Watch for the flowers to fade, and once they have, cut them off," said Ford. "If the flowers remain on the plant, they will try to set seed and this will stress the mum and make it more susceptible to winter injury."