Early Chrysanthemums for Exhibition - Terry Hubbard

Growing the “Queen of the Autumn flowers “ for showing is a year round hobby that requires a lot of work, discipline and dedication.
I first grew chrysants for show in my early teens when varieties like Ermine, Evelyn Bush, White Wings and John Woolman were prominent on the show bench.
This lasted for about ten to twelve years and and with very limited knowledge I had only moderate success. Then following a long break until the millennium, I was given some plants to try by a friend at the local pub which re-kindled my interest.
The following year I sent for two collections from Woolmans and being naïve I grew the plants as I did in my early years, but quickly found out that growing had progressed, as most things in life had, in that different diseases and pests were apparent and that protection of blooms by double bagging was supplemented with additional covering etc; I then joined the NCS of which the three bulletins yearly gave valuable info and in Sept'03 I took a vase of five mixed blooms to the national show at Stafford, which were entered in a restricted class and obtained a 2nd prize card which wet my appetite for growing again even further. I then joined the Ilkeston and Chesterfield Societies which gave access to more valuable info. I proceeded to take flowers to local shows and also to the National at Stafford exhibiting in restricted and single vase open classes. Over a period of time I had reasonable success at the local shows and also in the single vase classes at the National and to my surprise and delight in Sept 2008 I won a three vase trophy, which included a best vase in show ( large intermediate section), see photograph below.
I will now explain how I grew this vase of five Billy Bell in 2008, see photograph below left.
Main purchases of stock were from John Peace 2003 & 2006. This variety is the first stools I lifted in Oct as I took the first batch of cuttings on the 26th Dec. and second one a week later and so on. I took the first batch on the 26th because it was the earliest National show date. I have varied my cutting mix yearly but had better results in 2008 with one part multipurpose and three quarter part vermiculite. Cuttings are dipped in Bio Roota prior to insertion, normally twelve to a tray. Plants are moved through 3.25”-0.29 litre( round) to 11x11 x12cm-1.0 litre square pots with a mix of four year old ( late pot soil- sterilised in old microwave) and multipurpose 50/50 with a small amount of perlite or preferably vermiculite and no added fertliser for the small pots but a small amount of Vitax Q4 for the larger ones.
My first stopping date was 27th Mar; then two more at weekly intervals. The separate plot for Billy Bell plants is small ( 12ft-3.7m x 3ft-0.92m ) with fairly light well drained soil in what is probably the sunniest part of the garden. In this area I planted 27 in 2006, 24 in 2007 and reduced to 20 plants 2008.
Following soil tests in 2006 and 2007 which gave Potash levels of 561 (mg/1) and 390 (mg/1) respectively I decided against one for 2008 assuming that the level had proportionally reduced to that recommended in NCS guide table, ie; to 185 (mg/1).
About a week before planting out I forked in a liberal amount of Ammonium Nitrate and the day prior I watered Admire into the pots. This should suppress Blackfly & Greenfly for approx 100 days.
Derby has a fairly temperate climate so I like to start around 8th May and complete planting before going away on holiday for two weeks about the the 15th May.
When planting I trowel out a 10” hole, add Vitax Q4HN pellets, cover with approx 2” soil , then plant as normal.
Arrived back and first time in three years no damage from rabbits,slugs etc; and excepting rain, no watering takes place, unless weather is very hot, for about three weeks as plants need to increase their root size by searching for moisture.
I started feeding around second week in June, two Chempak (black spoons) of Ammonium Nitrate to 15 litres of water plus 1 spoon of Calcium Nitrate every 7 days approx, giving 1 litre per plant up until calyx split.
I normally do not see white rust on this variety but spray about third week in June with Vin Aldreds recommended cocktail ie; 100 mls of diluted soft soap (large plants only) plus 1.5 ml Sythane 20 EW plus 5ml Amistar to 5 litres of water *50mls of soft soap for small plants.
Plants are grown three up until around 20th June, then reduced down to best two just before buds start to appear. All earlies are mulched just before mid July with 2”- 3” of leaf mould, this helps to retain moisture, keeps the top roots cool and improves my light soil for the following year, as for the last three years I have not used any manure on my plots. As soon as buds are ready to crack, to give protection from earwig,bird damage etc; I put a cut 4”x 4” piece of fleece over the top of the bud and roll loosely, a tie around to hold, this is quick and easy and gives time before 7”x 7” bud bag.
If Admire has done its job I spray Decis for protection against catapillars.
Final bag is 12.5” x 15” ( double) the outer bag having a central fixed twin core wire to keep the shape (see photograph below centre). No wind break is used on this plot, so along with the wire on the outer bag and by placing a corner cane with a holding peg on one side of the bag this generally works well when buffeted by strong winds. The cover for this plot is a frame holding clear corrugated plastic sheeting (see photograph below right).
As it was raining on the Thursday of cutting, I cut the corners of the bags to the centres to check if the flowers were ready,if so, I cut and carried into the cellar before removing the bags, then cutting to length, slitting stems and into water.
I was surprised to see the quality of the flowers so early in Sept; as in previous years they usually increased in size through the month. These were the best Billy Bell I have grown with another good cut for the following weeks show at Basford, Nottingham . Perhaps like wine it was a Vintage Year where everything clicked into place and only time will tell if I can produce a vase of similar quality.
This 2008 exhibit won me two engraved silver medals (one solid) at the early National and in 2009 in two multi-vase classes I won a 2nd and 4th prize card so hope for better in 2010.
To conclude I would like to mention the size of the plot that produced the best vase is small and can be accommodated in most back gardens.
I hope this is of interest and I wish Derbyshire Horticultural Association all the best for the future. 


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