Here at Longwood, we always look forward to our annual Chrysanthemum Festival for so many reasons… it’s a chance for us not only to put on a colorful show of rare and beloved cultivars, but also a way for us to stretch our horticultural limits and proudly share with you the fruits of that labor. We take more than a year to prepare for each Chrysanthemum Festival, growing and nurturing our large specialty chrysanthemums into imaginative shapes and forms, all the while caring for a variety of chrysanthemum cultivars… all requiring constant attention. While this year has most definitely thrown us some curveballs—from changing how we had to work to having to reduce the number of Horticulture team members able to work on-site—the challenges of this year have not thrown us off of our horticultural game… and we’re are beyond excited to share this year’s display with you (including an all-new feature!).
by Jim Sutton
As in years past, our Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum—one of our most prized horticultural achievements—is taking center stage. This single chrysanthemum plant, grown over a period of 17 months and more than 2,000 staff hours to reach its astounding size of 12 feet wide and 8 feet tall, features 1,362 sunny yellow, uniform Chrysanthemum x morifolium ‘Susono-no-Hikari’ blooms. To create the Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum, we follow a precise technique that originated in China and expanded to Japan several hundred years ago, to cultivate a single chrysanthemum plant to produce as many perfectly placed blooms as possible.
Known in Japan as Ozukuri, this technique requires only a single bloom on the end of each individual branch, meaning none of the flowers on the sides of the branch can be used to create this enormous shape. As buds begin to form, we disbud the mums, which involves taking all of the smaller side buds off and allowing only the main center bud to continue to grow. As the plant grows, it requires meticulous pinching (or removing the shoot tip), which helps new branches form below the pinch, as well as tying the plant to its framework. Throughout the process, our staff disbudded nearly 10,000 tiny flower buds in order to have just one perfect large bloom on each stem.
About a month before the beginning of each Chrysanthemum Festival, we begin final flower placement in the custom-made dome-shaped frame, arranging the flowers to make sure each row is placed perfectly in concentric rings, and each flower is placed in a support to properly position it. After we complete the process of placing the flowers, we can answer just how many blooms we achieved. And yes… our team has already started training the Thousand Bloom plant for next year’s display.