My father enjoyed gardening, in particular, growing prize chrysanthemums, which he would enter to show. Every fall, dad would choose the best of the mums, name some after his girls, and take the blooms to the Royal BC Chrysanthemum Club show event. Dad would ready for the show the night before, carefully choosing the perfect blooms. Next, dad cut the long stems, gently pulling off any brown or wilted leaves from the length of stem. “Patience is important”, he would say. We would crowd around the bloom, our eyes searching earwigs. Spying one, dad would deftly remove it with tweezers. The perfect bloom carefully placed into a tall white bucket of water where it would stay until being loaded into the back of the wagon.
As we grew older, experienced, my sister and I were allowed to enter our own chrysanthemums for show. My sister chose to grow purple, spider mums. I chose white disbuds. Dad was a talented, meticulous mum grower and won many “First Place.” We were proud of our father and his efforts as we carried the armloads of blue ribbons and certificates to the car. Few growers could match dad’s talent.
Grandpa Tom would discuss the plants, look over the greenhouse improvement plans, and offer advice on the fickle heater in the space. My sister recalls gardening with Tom and credits him for her affection for gardening today. My grandfather was a believer in fish head fertilizer and would bring the bag of heads for us to dig under and into the growing soil pile. We hated the stench! “That’s the secret ingredient,” he would say.
When I pass a florist, I am automatically drawn to the white chrysanthemums, disbuds, their perfectly round heads with the petals curving to a tight centre. Elegance. I can never resist purchasing a few.