"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Midwinter Mums (2 of 6)

Midwinter Mums (2 of 6)

From “Sentiments at Autumn: Eleven Poems” by Han Yu in Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, edited by Wu-Chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo:

Chrysanthemum fresh in the frost
what use your beauty so late?
Butterfly cheerful in the fragrance,
your life neither comes too early,
at cycle’s end you both meet
your youth and grace intact till death

Western wind, snakes and dragons hibernate,
all the trees with days’ advance fade and dry
Such are the parts destined by fate….

From “Chrysanthemums” in The Story of Flowers and How They Changed the Way We Live by Noel Kingsbury:

“Chrysanthemum fashions have come and gone for thousands of years. The flower has been cultivated in China for more than 3,000 years, referred to in early records usually as yellow, the colour of certain wild species. They stood out because they bloomed in autumn, after the heat of the summer, and this is one reason for their popularity ever since….

“By the time of the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC) in China there were almost certainly several varieties, since there was a grand market for chrysanthemum sales in the capital, while poets in succeeding dynasties wrote often in its praise. Doubles, a range of colours and multi-hued flowers appeared during the Song dynasty (AD 960–1279), with 400 varieties by 1458, when the first book on the flower was published.

“In Japan, the chrysanthemum took off as a national symbol in the early thirteenth century when Emperor Go-Toba started using one as his personal symbol; other emperors followed, and late in the century it became the royal family’s official symbol. During the Edo period many new varieties were produced and new growing techniques developed, often involving detailed pruning and tying to elaborate frames to shape the plants into pyramids, miniature trees or cascades, or encourage one huge, perfect flower. The latter technique was taken up widely after the plant was introduced to the West in the 1830s.”

From “Chrysanthemums” in Shoes of the Wind: A Book of Poems  by Hilda Conkling:

Dusky red chrysanthemums out of Japan,
With silver-backed petals like armor,
Tell me what you think sometimes?
You have fiery pink in you too…
You all mean loveliness:
You say a word
Of joy.
You come from gardens unknown
Where the sun rises…
You bow your heads to merry little breezes
That run by like fairies of happiness;
You love the wind and woody vines
That outline the forest…
You love brooks and clouds…
Your thoughts are better than my thoughts
When the moon is getting high!


This is the second of six posts (that’s a lot!) featuring several varieties of mums from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The first post is Midwinter Mums (1 of 6).

Here we have red, red, red ones — blooms from several garden locations that exhibited mostly pure red rather than the red/pink/magenta I described in the previous post. It may be noteworthy that when magenta is absent, the flower petals take on a barely perceptible orange hue when lit by the sun.

Thanks for taking a look!


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