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Mums the word

chandigarh Updated: Dec 20, 2012 10:25 IST
Pallavi Singh

'Why should this flower delay so long to show its tremulous plumes?' In the poem, 'The Last Chrysanthemum', Thomas Hardy laments that this magnificent flower remains unheeding to the call of the sun during the long, summer months and only uncurls itself, each delicate frond and whorl, in the cold, winter months of November and December when the leaves are falling like corpses.

The 'mums', as the chrysanthemum is referred to affectionately, has an interesting past, and present. In the West, it is associated with happiness and life, while in Europe, it is known as the death flower and is almost always prominently displayed on graves and is a part of memorial services.

The flower's story is in contrast in the Orient. The Chrysanthemum Throne is the name given to the position of the Japanese emperor and that exactly signifies the importance of this supreme flower among its contemporaries.

The name chrysanthemum is a combination of the Greek words 'chrysos' that means gold and 'anthemon' or flower. The name is apt because their thick clusters supported by stakes appear like golden constellations and take your breath away. Masses of them in multihued knots stand upright in all their magnificence. Once in bloom, they enhance the beauty of the garden for almost two months, tolerating the winter chill and sharp winds with nonchalant ease.

The 'mums' are exquisite flowers that have been created in varied hues from white, purple, yellow, amber to faded pink, exhibiting various forms. They can be daisy-like, pompoms, spoon-shaped or even spidery. The flowers exude a spicy scent and have surprising culinary uses in the form of garnish, chrysanthemum wine and fragrant tea. A little known fact about these delicate flowers is that they are popular as insecticides and inhibit the female mosquito from biting. They are also considered to be de-pollutants and cleanse the atmosphere. The flower is a hermaphrodite, having both male and female parts and is capable of self-pollination.

The chrysanthemums are extravagant and elegant, with graceful petals crisply extending outwards to give the flower diverse shapes that are a pleasure to behold. The delicious little button flowers, the moon-like white orbits of the anemone blooms and the tubular rays of the spider chrysanthemum face towards the sun in full splendour these days.

Winter annuals such as stocks, petunias, pansies, nasturtiums all wait patiently for spring to showcase their beauty, while the brave chrysanthemums dutifully raise their multitudinous heads to feast our eyes during the bleak, frosty days. No wonder we greet them with flower shows exclusively dedicated to them to showcase their glorious best.

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