BLASPHEMY, I KNOW, BUT I AM NOT MUCH OF A MUM TYPE. Ditto with roses: I might have two, but that’s about the sum of my interest (and twice the number I have of chrysanthemums). When so-called ‘Will’s Wonderful’ gets going around Halloween, though, I’m glad I’m not down to zero on the mum score. He’s a bawdy ending to a season here that had some pretty bawdy early acts, too.
I found ‘Will’ (along with many other good things over the years) at the now-closed Seneca Hill Perennials. Former owner Ellen Hornig dubbed the plant ‘Will’s Wonderful’ because it was given to her by someone named Will, not because either of them knows its actual name. (Update September 2011: As of fall 2009, Ellen was no longer selling it, so for awhile I suggested to readers that another pink, maybe ‘Cambodian Queen,’ from the selection at Lazy S’s might be one to consider. ‘Sheffield Pink,’ which they also have, is lovely, too, but not bawdy at all. In 2010, Lazy S’s added ‘Will’ to its collection–meaning ‘Will’ found a new retail home. Update 2019: Though Lazy S’s went out of business, Avant Gardens also started selling Will.)
What Ellen and I and Lazy S’s and Kathy Tracey of Avant Gardens all like about ‘Will’ is that he shows up extra-late, just when you have given up on anything daring to flower, and also the indescribable way he colors up and then fades: a sequence of shocking hues, one nicer than the next. Like I said, I can’t describe it, exactly, but it starts with red buds, opens to what you see above (a three-tone show of vivid pink, white and gold) and then proceeds to fade in the nicest way eventually, to a golden-straw color with a dark pink edge. It does this evolution (devolution?) in the garden, and also in a vase.
The plant is one of the hardiest souls around my place, returning unfailingly year after year, and also one of the most enthusiastic. If 4 or 5 million of you need divisions, just let me know. (Kidding.)