Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chrysanthemums in California by Ted King

Ted KingChrysanthemums in California by Ted King

King’s Mums – 1952 – 2007.
Proprietors Ted King and daughter Lanna.

I was born 1920 in Hayward California, a San Francisco Bay Area city, and reared on a large squab production pigeon ranch. I attended Cal Poly for 2.5 years until World War II, when I entered the Navy. I studied agriculture inspection and subjects such as entomology and plant pathology which were to become of keen interest in later years. It wasn’t until I was discharged from the Navy that Chrysanthemums caught my eye. While working for a pest control firm on a routine route, I observed large flowered yellow mums tied around four or five street trees in magnificent bloom.

Of course I asked if I could take some cuttings, and they obliged. Another inspiration was to visit the large Chrysanthemum display at Lakeside Park in Oakland California. Mostly small flowered types of their own seedlings, but most impressive was the cascade stand. This must have been 12 feet high with 2 layers of cascades giving the impression of extremely long specimens. The park department held an auction of stools each spring after taking their cuttings. This is where I obtained many of my early cultivars. Among them was Garnet King, (4A-R, 1928) and I believe it is still being grown today in the U.S.

The growing of mostly large flowered Chrysanthemums gradually became a consuming hobby. In an effort to find other people with similar interests and share their experience in growing, I looked to the Superintendent of the Lakeside mum show. Mr. Ammerman gave me a list of people that had a keen interest in the park’s mum show and among them was Dr. Ira B. Cross, a professor of economics at the University of California. He was to become the first president of the Chrysanthemum Study Club of the East Bay. This organization was later to become the Northern California Chrysanthemum Society, 1952 – 2002. Dissolved when there were not enough members to carry on duties any longer.

My occupation during all these years was conducting a tree and garden spraying service where contract customers were serviced from my spray truck quarterly for what ever insect or disease prevailed. Eventually, my collection of mums increased to the point where I was no longer considered an amateur and no longer allowed to exhibit competitively at local shows. In the U.S., when the revenue from growing exceeds production costs, you are no longer allowed to compete with amateurs. However, I was always happy to exhibit my new introductions at local shows.

In 1981 we were advised that our property in Castro Valley was needed for an expansion of near by Highway 580. At this time the Chrysanthemum business was taking more and more time and the spraying service less. This led to selling the spraying service and moving the nursery 85 miles east to the Central Valley area in Clements. This is 35 miles South of Sacramento, our state capital. We bought 20 acres of bare rolling land, studded with large Valley Oak trees, and plenty of rabbits and gophers. We proceeded to construct a new home, horse barn for Morgan show horses, put in a well for water, and constructed 4 greenhouses and a shop. This was a busy time, traveling 85 miles each way to observe construction while instructing the new owner of the spraying service.

Our new location in Clements, a hot dry area of the San Joaquin Valley, was quite a change in climate from the cool temperatures of the Bay Area. This move only served to illustrate how adaptive the Chrysanthemum is. A major change was a later bloom date by as much as 2 weeks.

In 1983, my daughter Lanna became a full partner in the business. Lanna has been working with me since childhood, and soon became our computer person as well as helping with propagation and the primary person filling orders.

I have been an active member of N.C.S. (U.S.) since 1948. I served as director and as classification chairman for 12 years. I have been a patron of N.C.S. – U.K. for many years. Was exclusive agent for H. Woolman, Ltd., in the U.S. and Canada for many years. We have exchange programs with Seaton in Australia, Harry Lawson and Gordon Jones in the U.K. and have been able to secure many fine Japanese cultivars through a friend in Japan. I have attended the late show in the U.K. when it was held in London at the old train station as the guest of Harry Randal and Alan Wren. More recently I have attended the early national show in Stafford and the show at Harrogate. I must admit that these shows were overwhelming and we have nothing to compare with here in the U.S.

Among the cultivars originating in the U.K. that have been winners here and carried at the nursery are the following:
Alexis and Apricot Alexis (sport), Candid, Derek Bircumshaw, Doreen Statham, Fireflash, George Couchman, Gillette, Heather James, Lake Landers, Margaret Howells, paint Box, Parador, Pretty Polly, Purple Light, Rebecca Walker, Suzanne Etheridge, Billy Bell & Yellow Billy Bell (sport).

Perhaps of interest is our growing system and materials. Soil here is shallow and rocky. We bring in our planting mix of 80% fine ¼” fir bark, 10% sand, 10% saw dust. No soil! Irrigation of our mother stock and display area is by plastic drip system with 2 inch emitters. We use constant fertilizer through our drip system and at present use 20-9-20 + minor elements at a 200 to 1 ratio. I have used a Smith Measure mix injector for over 40 years.

In the summer and fall, 6,000, 6.5 inch pots of disbuds and spray types are planted for fall sales and hand watered daily. We have no rain here from mid may until mid October. Our insect program has been with one of the Chloronicotine systemic insecticides, Tristar now and previously Marathon. We also use a biopesticide growth regulator Azadirachtin called Azatin in the U.S. This is a neem product from India. For a fungicide, we occasionally use a copper product that is systemic called Python 27. Mites (mainly two spotted) have been effectively controlled with Bifenthrin called Floramite in the U.S.

I don’t know if the plant protein product called Messenger is yet available in the U.K., but we think that this is one of the most important findings in plant science in years. Discovered some 14 years ago by scientists at Cornell University, Messenger is a plant protein (Harp-N-Tek. tm.) that has an unusual property that activates a plant’s immune system. This plant protein was isolated from the bacterial disease ‘Fire Blight’, a common disease of the apple family. The application of Messenger as a spray or drench is like our taking a shot for the flu. Safety wise, Messenger is very safe and can be used up to the day of harvest on fruits and vegetables. We had a case of this material stored in a locked storage area and field mice found it to be very tasty! We now store it in the refrigerator. I have found that the continual use of this product has generally increased the health of our mums to the point where cultivars which were to be discarded because of health problems have been revived to the point of general good health. And because of Messenger, we are now using about half of the fertilizer that we were previously using. Plants are more efficient and look just as good as ever. I don’t know if it is our use of insecticide or Messenger, but we have not had to spray from mid April until early August. This is the longest insect free period we have ever experienced. One of the amazing qualities of Messenger is that plants are extremely sensitive to it. We apply this product through our fertilizer injector in addition to fertilizer. We use as little as 2 ounces of Messenger to 50 gallons of fertilizer concentrate and the injector dilutes at a ratio of 100 to 1. It seems unreal that such a small amount can have such dramatic results.

Sadly, I must face the fact that at age 87 I can not keep up the pace and have decided to sell the Chrysanthemum business. Of course I will continue growing, but at a much slower pace. This has been the love of my life and I will continue to contribute what ever I can to the development of Chrysanthemums.

Footnote from Harry Lawson: I requested Ted King to write a brief history about himself and Chrysanthemums, he was delighted to do so. He has been for the past 40 years a leading Chrysanthemum nursery in the United States.

Regarding the product 'Messenger' - Ted gave me a sample of the messenger, I can see it is the best and safest insecticide, I have ever used.

The King of Mums

Ted King stands among some of his chrysanthemums at his nursery, King's Mums, on Liberty Road in Clements. King will be selling off his stock after first opening in 1954. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

The King of Mums

After a half-century of cultivating color smiles, Clements nursery selling stock

By Marc Lutz
News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 2008 6:32 AM PST

On the outskirts of town, where the lowlands of the Mokelumne give way to golden rolling hills, there is a secret that will soon be a fond memory.

King's Mums, a nursery on Liberty Road specializing in chrysanthemum flowers that was started in 1954, will be closing its doors to the public.

In 1945, Ted King finished his stint with the U.S. Navy and went to work for a pest control company in Castro Valley. In his spare time, King discovered the chrysanthemum, and the colorful puffy flower began to grow on him. Much more than a hobby was born.

The cheerful and amiable King started cultivating many different mums and opened a mail order business in 1954 that he operated when he wasn't plying the pest control trade. He sent out his first official catalog — a copy of which he still has — in 1967. Business began to blossom.

As the decades passed and '80s arrived, King says the California Department of Transportation approached him, saying they needed his Castro Valley property. The decision was made to move to Clements, where King and his little family bought 20 acres and began to build.

The Kings built their home and business, which included greenhouses for the mums. The year was 1982 when they opened their current doors.

These days, King's Mums welcomes all its visitors to come in and peruse their abundant inventory of white, yellow, pink and just about every color of mum available — except blue. King says he believes scientists are working to create a blue chrysanthemum.

"People come here and say, 'My Lord, what have I missed? Here's an entire group of mums I didn't know existed,'" King said. He admitted that it's easy to get hooked on the vibrant plant, because it's so simple to grow. Even if neglected by the gardener, King said they will still grow and sometimes thrive. And though they get customers stopping by to purchase their mums directly from the nursery, King says they also get tours of seniors from retirement homes from places such as Menlo Park coming in just to enjoy the scenery.

With 150 to 200 varieties of chrysanthemums, there's a lot to enjoy. King's daughter, Lanna King, who is an equal partner in the business with her father, said it can be hard to keep track of them sometimes.

And not only do the mums come in different colors, they also come in different sizes.

"They can be as big as a human head," Lanna King said.

King's Mums have been featured in Sunset magazine many times, have earned Ted King numerous trophies and have given him years of enjoyment. But time has a way of bringing all flourishing things to a close.

What's a chrysanthemum?

The name of the fragrant plant comes from the Greek language. It's broken into two parts: khrusos, meaning "gold," and anthemon, meaning "flower." However, the origins come from the Far East, specifically China and Japan.

They were thought to be originally grown in China as an herb as far back as the 15th century B.C. Chrysanthemums come from the plant family asteraceae.

The Chinese considered the flower to be superior to all others, naming their royal thrones after the chrysanthemum. Peasants weren't allowed to grow the flower.

Mums come in all shapes and sizes, from "spiders," and "spoons" to buttons and ball-shaped.

The chrysanthemum is depicted on Japan's imperial weapon and flag. Japan also has a national festival devoted to the flower on Sept. 9.

Source: and Ted King

Ted and Lanna King have sold the business name and inventory to an Oregon-based company, who will taking up the remaining stock in December. Even though the bulk of business takes place in the spring, both partners agreed that people wanting to visit or buy mums would need to do so before their final day, Nov. 30.

It's obvious that King's will be missed.

"It's like being in a candy store — there's too much good stuff," said Tracey Poore, of Lodi. She said her god-son, a wholesale florist, is going to be upset to hear of the closing, as he got all his mums from King's. Poore said when she tells him the news "he's going to faint."

The lackluster economic times, plus Ted King's multiple hip surgeries, drove the father and daughter to sell the business and move on to other endeavors.

Lanna King, 50, who is an avid and svelte bodybuilding competitor, is looking for a line of work that will offer her retirement benefits, possibly something in the state correctional system. Her father will keep on doing what he does best.

"This has been my hobby for so many years, I just can't stop or sit around and watch TV," said Ted King, who will stay rooted in growing his favorite flower.

King's Mums is located at 20303 E. Liberty Road in Clements. To reach them, call 759-3571.

Growing Tips

Growing Tips

Best Planting Time / Soil Preparation / Planting / Cutting Back / Pinching /

Lateral Removal / Disbudding / Fertilizers / Insects and Disease / Winter Care / Cascade Culture

Can I Grow All of These Mums in My Area?

All of our large, exhibition style varieties are as easy to grow as any ordinaryWindDancer chrysanthemum. They can be grown in ANY area if suitable protection from freezing can be provided.

Chrysanthemums are sun lovers, and can be grown in pots or in the ground, in a location which receives at least a half a day of sun.

In colder areas where the bloom season may be shortened by cold weather, potted mums should be moved to a protected area. In cold locations, chrysanthemums growing in the ground can be potted up in September and moved into a sheltered area. They suffer little setback with this procedure, and you can have beautiful blooms through Thanksgiving!

If you live in a hard freeze zone, choose varieties with earlier bloom dates. The LynnJohnson.jpg (55385 bytes)bloom date for each variety is listed along with the description. The earliest bloomers are from September to mid October and include the Garden Cushion mums as well as some early blooming taller types, in the various classes. The bloom dates provided are based on central California, and can vary as much as two weeks depending on latitude and temperature. For instance, blooms will flower earlier in the northern latitudes and later in the South. Also, cool fall temperatures will hasten blooms, while prolonged heat will delay the bloom.

With just a few provisions, our customers have enjoyed beautiful fall chrysanthemums in climates as diverse as Arizona and Michigan!

Growing Instructions

Best Planting Time: The largest flowered types should be planted as soon as weather and soil conditions permit. Small flowered types can be planted as late as July. Top

Soil Preparation: Chrysanthemums will grow in almost any soil type. But, the addition of humis materials such as manure, compost, leaf mold, or peat moss is very beneficial. Superphosphate at the rate of 3 lbs. per 100 square feet isFleurDeLis.jpg (64534 bytes)recommended. Gypsum or Dolomite lime is also recommended at a rate of 10 lbs. per 100 square ft. Top

Planting: Shallow planting, no deeper that the plant was in its rooting mixture. Initial planting should be into small pots until established and growing well. Space 15 inches apart in all directions. Good drainage is most important.Top

Cutting Back: If your plants are more than 10" tall on July 1st, we recommend cutting back to 4" or 6", leaving some good green foliage or growth below the cut. The result will be shorter plants and better foliage at bloom time. On large flowered cultivars, select the most vigorous growth that results after the cut and make no further stops or pinches. Top

Pinching: When growth resumes after cutting back, removal of the very tip growing portion of the stem will promote more branching and flowers, and in some cases help determine bloom date. Large flowered types should not be Obsession.jpg (57491 bytes)pinched after July 5th. Small flowered types can be pinched up to Aug. 5th. An earlier pinch date will be necessary for September blooming types. Top

Lateral Removal: Large flowered types will only achieve their full potential of size and form if growth is restricted to several stems, three being an average. All side laterals or branches must be removed as they occur. Remove them when they are short and soft so they do not rob the stem and developing buds of potential growth. Top

Disbudding: Large flowered types will only reach their maximum size if flower buds are restricted one to a stem. For best results, remove all but the largest center bud in a terminal bud cluster when bud clusters are still very small. Terminal bud clusters will contain from 3 to as many as 5 buds. Crown budsShandra.jpg (63027 bytes) which are the first to occur and are born singly, produce the earliest blooms. Top

Fertilizers: The regular use of a high Nitrogen and Potassium fertilizer will greatly increase flower size and numbers, We recommend incorporating a slow re-lease fertilizer such as Osmocote 14-14-14 at planting time plus a weekly feeding of a high analysis liquid fertilizer such as Rapid Grow, after August 1st and until flower buds show color. Change to a 10-10-10 fertilizer, or no fertilizer, after this date. Top

Insects and Disease: Careful monitoring of your insect population is Redwing.jpg (56867 bytes)important. Don't let development spread from a few plants. Spot treatment of individual plants, particularly in the case of aphids, can often prevent spread to a general infestation. Lack of thoroughness in treating the underside of leaves is usually the reason for rapid reinfestation. Don't use the same type of insecticide more than three successive times or insects may become resistant. Soap and light oil spray are quite effective, but the target insect or mite must be contacted to be effective. Don't use soap sprays on blooms. Top

Alexis_small.jpg (2245 bytes)Winter Care: Chrysanthemums on the whole are not entirely winter hardy in areas of hard freeze. In cold winter areas, dig up plants, prune back, and store in a protective area such as a cold frame, basement, or any area where they can be protected from freezing. If left in the ground, mulch heavily with straw, decomposed manure or similar materials. In warmer areas, don't be hasty to cut back old stems until signs of new growth begin at base of plant.Top

Chrysanthemum Cascade Culture

New Cascade Mum

No, chrysanthemums do not naturally grow in the cascade style. They will require your devoted attention through a rather long growing season. However, the thrill and joy of a splash of jubilant color tumbling over a patio wall or cascading down the edge of the front steps, will more than repay you for all your efforts. The cascade cultivars differ from most chrysanthemums in possessing rapid growth response and limber stems which are free branching with a multitude of small blooms. Blooms are typically single daisy or anemone types, although there are spooned and decorative types also.

Some of the recommended cascade cultivars are: the Daphne's (white, pink or yellow daisy's), Gum Drop (white and yellow anemone), Biko (violet purple anemone), Kurume (deep red anemone), Maiko (rose-lavender anemone), Megumi (yellow anemone), Red Burst (red and bronze anemone), Seizan (yellow anemone), and Sozan (rosy purple anemone).

Most any light well draining potting mix can be used. Be sure the potting mix drains readily, as one which holds too much water can be a source of problems. If you prefer to mix your own, combine 2 parts fibrous loam, 2 parts leaf mold or aged fine fir bark, 1 part rotted manure, 1 part course sand, and 1 part peat moss

Cascades must have a long growing season to achieve the necessary long cascading effect. In order to get the earliest start, many growers remove a stolen growth from the base of the mother plant (Dutch cutting). These will have enough root to get them growing immediately. Otherwise root tip cuttings as soon as new growth permits. Well rooted cuttings can be obtained from King's as early as the end of February. Pot initially to 4 inch pots and repot to a 6 inch pot after 4 to 6 weeks. Make final potting in 10 to 12 inch pots (with attached trellis) as roots fill the container. Up until the time of final re-potting, your cascade is allowed to grow naturally in the upright position with an occasional pinch to stimulate lateral branching. It's a good idea to tie this new growth to a bamboo stake. When planting to the final trellised container (see photo), plant the cascade leaning over sideways, pointing toward the trellis, so it can be immediately tied in place without bending the stem. ( NOTE: During most of the growing season, the easiest way to grow cascades is with the trellis in a FLAT (horizontal) position on a raised bench. An empty pot can be placed under the terminal end of the trellis to make it level. It is easier to
train the plant over sideways than to force it straight down. Final lowering to the cascading position is delayed until buds begin to form.

Proper training and tying to a wire trellis is the most essential part of growing cascade chrysanthemums. To make the trellis, begin with a length of 12 gauge galvanized wire, approximately 7 feet long, which is bent to form an elongated U shape. Bend the ends to form hooks which will be placed down inside the bottom of the pot and prevent the trellis from working loose. The center of the wire frame should be covered with 2 inch grid wire poultry netting. This will allow the maximum area for tying down the new growth. The hooked ends of the wire trellis are inserted
into the final 10 to 12 inch growing container on either side of the cascade plant. The plant is immediately tied in place on the trellis. We use paper covered 4 inch twistems for tying. The container, with trellis attached, is kept in a flat (horizontal) position on a raised bench for ease of training. An empty pot may be placed under the terminal end of the trellis to keep it level. The cascade is placed in the final hanging display location and the trellis lowered into position when buds begin to form.

All new stems, except the leading growing tips, are pinched or stopped when they have reached three or four leaves in length. Do not allow lateral growth to elongate beyond this, as a rather dense, flat appearance is more desirable. All new growth is kept tied down and this should be done at least weekly and while stems are soft and supple. If tying down has been neglected, there is a chance of breakage when tying. In this case, withhold water until the plant wilts, making the stems more supple, and then tie. As buds form, generally by mid September, pinching is stopped and your cascade is placed in the final elevated display position where the trellis can be slowly bent downward until the desired cascading effect is reached. This may take several days. Allowing the cascade to wilt during this bending process will help prevent breaking any main stems.

The cascade chrysanthemum requires constant feeding to produce rapid growth. We use Osmocote 14-14-14 with each re-potting plus a liquid feed of a high nitrogen and potassium content such as a 20-5-20. This is applied at least weekly. Continue feeding until buds show color then 0-10-10 for the remainder of the season. Watering is very demanding, especially as your cascade matures. It may be necessary to water as often as twice a day during warm summer whether. As wilt occurs, don't neglect the watering as leaf scorch and poor growth are the result. Top dressing the soil with peat moss will help conserve moisture. Do not feed or spray insecticide when plants are in a wilted condition. A fine spray of clear water is O.K. and revives wilted plants.

Aphids will be the main problem. Establish a regular schedule of once a week spraying or dusting with a general purpose spray or rose dust until buds show color. After this time dust lightly only, or flower injury may occur. If insecticide resistance is encountered, change to an entirely different unrelated chemical or insecticidal compound.

King's Mums, 14857 S Brunner Rd, Oregon City, OR, 97045 | 503.656.2078
Copyright 2010, King's Mums, LLC

Customer Showcase

Customer Showcase

We are always interested in seeing what our custoemrs are doing with their mums. The photographs below are from home gardeners as well as aboretums. If you have some outstanding chrysanthemum photos of King's Mums from your own yard, we would love to see them! Send pictures to

A group of Derek Bircumshaws grown by Jong Phill Lee of Palatine, IL

A cascade of Rose Maiko grown by Jong Phill Lee

Bouquets grown by Ronald Deering of Puyallup, WA

A first try at growing incurves by Anthony and Laura Bartoni of Whitehall, PA

Flowers from the garden of E.B. Monteath

\More Blooms grown by E.B. Monteath

A cascade grown by Maria Ourmanova of Boyds, Md.

A Thanksgiving centerpiece grown by David Hannings of San Louis Obispo, CA

Sol Ferschneider holding an Irregular Incurve mum in Seaford, NY

A bouquet grown by Priscilla Dack in Fresno, CA

Little Henry loves his mums in Elm Grove Wisconsin
(So does his favorite friend...)

Gumdrop Cascade
Gumdrop Cascade grown by Rita Rover of N.Y.

Ritas Grandson

Rita Rover's grandson with Whiteout.

Mr. Florian Geider of Whitehall, PA, shows off one of his winning 'Mt. Shasta's'.

Sol & Dorothy Ferdschneider of New York show off their 'Zinfandel'

Look closely and you will see that there is a little mouse that is a great fan of King's Mums too.
(At the home of John Alfors, CA)


Blooms at the home of Florian Geider in PA.

There's a picnic bench under there!
By Dr. Lewis, New Jersey

"Just for looks!"
Grown by N.E. Wells in Arkansas

"Mt. Ranier"
Grown by Ken Kurakazu of Walnut Creek, CA

"Bola de Oro"
grown by Frank Essig of N.J.

The garden of Mary Baldi

Mums display
Phipps Conservatory in Pennsylvania

Spiders in the 'Palm Court'
Phipps Conservatory, PA

"Gnomes" planted at the
Volunteer Park Conservatory, WA

"Houston" grown by
Ruth Ann Waite of Las Vegas, NV

"Spiders" at the
Phipps Conservatory, PA

"Cascades" at
Phipps Conservatory, PA

The aboretum at
Phipps Conservatory

A Japanese fan made from the variety 'Gum Drop', grown by Roy & Donna Oku of Stockton, Ca.

Disbuded blooms from the yard of Cecile Chmelik of Kentucky

Irregular Incurve

Irregular Incurve

These are the giants of the Chrysanthemum family, highly esteemed for their exhibition potential. Incurving blooms present a loose, more informal appearance than the regular incurve.

Full Collection

Blushing Bride
Bloom: Oct.15 - Oct. 29
1A, Med. Height
Bola DeOro
Bloom: Oct. 24 - Nov. 5
1A, Med. Height
Crimson Tide
Bloom: Oct.24 - Nov. 5
1A, Short Height

King's Pleasure

Fort Smith
Bloom: Oct 13 - 26
1A, Med. Height
Bloom: Oct. 8 - Oct. 25
1A, Medium Height
King's Pleasure
Bloom: Oct. 24 - Nov. 8
1A, Med. Height

Kokka no Waza

Kokka Bunmi
Bloom: Oct.22 - Nov. 5
1A, Med. Height
Kokka no Waza
Bloom: Oct. 18 - Nov. 1
1A, Short Height
Bloom: Oct.20 - Nov.2
1A, Med. Height

Mt Shasta
Bloom: Oct.28 - Nov.10
1A, Med. Height
Nijin Bigo
Bloom: Oct.18 - Oct. 30
1A, Short Height
Primrose Mt. Shasta
Bloom: Oct.28 - Nov. 10
1A, Medium Height

Quan Yon Hung
Bloom: Oct. 20 - Oct. 30
1A, Medium Height
River City
Bloom: Oct.15 - Nov. 6
1A, Short Height
Bloom: Oct.20 - Nov. 5
1A, Med. Height
Woolman's Century

Woolman's Century
Bloom: Oct. 10 - Oct. 25
1AA, Med. Height