Monday, October 21, 2013

Kiku - a celebration of chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums aren't really very fashionable these days!  As a kid I recall my father growing late chrysanthemums in big clay pots, which had to be transferred into the greenhouse after the tomatoes had finished. I also remember the local chrysanthemum shows in the Pier Pavilion, a vast seaside ballroom filled with long tables displaying huge blooms in numerous colours, the whole building scented with the musky smell of the foliage. But chrysanthemums have been grown traditionally for centuries. The flower was adopted as the official symbol of the Imperial House of Japan in the Eighth Century and over 500 cultivars recorded by 1630. Chrysanthemum Day (Kiku no Sekku) is one of the five ancients sacred festivals of Japan. It is celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month. It was started in 910 when the Japanese Imperial Court held its first chrysanthemum show. Now to get to the point, whilst in New York and visiting the NY Botanic Garden, I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit the Kiku Chrysanthemum Festival in the beautiful Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Chrysanthemum bridges - I guess two plants in each - one from each end

Along the exhibition

Central feature with a 'Thousand Bloom' plant

Here are hundreds of meticulously trained chrysanthemum plants, some with beautiful individual blooms, one to a plant, others with many blooms up the the staggering Ozokuri - Thousand Bloom specimens. There were pyramids, long tumbling waterfalls of bloom (kengai), some trained as bridges over the pools and others grown as walls. A three tier 'poodle' specimens had flowers in three different colours, created by grafting the different cultivars on at stages in the development. Displaying the plants in diagonal rows of pink white and yellow is said to signify the colours in the woven braid used for the bridle of an imperial horse.
Beautiful specimen plant or plants
Ozokuri - Thousand Blooms

Back of the specimen showing it is just one plant - apparently retrained and tied to the framework half way through its growth program which started a year ago - October 2012
Pyramids - beautifully even

Waterfalls or cascades as we used to call them
More bridges
Described as walls

Grafted specimen - just one stem/plant is attached to the soil

Traditional diagonal display style

My own favourite was a giant bonsai style specimen with groups of flowers appearing to emerge from a gnarled, twisted tree trunk. Being curious, I peered behind the exhibit, expecting to see plants in pots hidden in the trunk but found just the stems of one individual plant trained up into all the intricate shapes.

Bonsai - style created by botanic garden but highly appropriate to Japanese horticulture

It all grows from these slender stems!

As well as the different shapes of plant, there were some unusual flower forms such as the exquisite spider blooms and curious big single flowers. The botanic garden has its own breeding program and several cultivars are of their own raising. Some flowers were supported by a circular wire ring, the purpose of which eludes me. It could be ornamental, be practical in supporting the long petals or be part of the traditional Japanese culture of these blooms. Someone enlighten me!

Big blocky singles - unusual - not sure if they are attractive
Wonderful spiders or spoon-petalled blooms

Not sure how these would be classified but they are curious
Note the little supporting rings

Although I have seen and grown charm and cascade chrysanthemums in the past,  (Wisley used to have a good display,) I have never seen anything as spectacular as this. To read more about this wonderful event and the fascinating ways these plants are grown, check out the gardens website on the  Kiku exhibit.

1 comment:

  1. Floral explosion! It's a shame we missed this but seeing your photos is almost as good as going!