mumBLASPHEMY, 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.)

  1. I have only one type of mum–in pots. I’m still trying to love them. Yours is certainly beautiful and a variety previously unknown to me. That’s why blogging is so great…we get to ‘visit’ other gardens.


    PS Margaret, please stop by my blog on Veterans Day.

    I’m featuring an 89 year-old gardener who served in WWII. He wrote his own story and I’m publishing it for him. Mr. Teasley is so sweet. I’d love for him to have lots of readers. His entry at the North Carolina State Fair won a blue ribbon!

  2. Karen T says:

    I thought I was the only one who’d put roses in the same camp as mums and chrysanthemums!

    I do have one rose in my current garden, brought with me from the last, and it’s the only rose I’ve liked having around — it’s pale yellow and fades to ivory, which is what the person who gave it to me didn’t like about it.

    But then I don’t really do flowers (I’m trying, though). My fall/winter bloomers are aloes and euphorbias. And all the camellias that came with the place.

  3. David Brogren says:

    here in Michigan it snowed last night. The woodstove is blasting. And outside my office window is the hardiest nasturtium I have ever had. It has three (countem) blooms goin strong and looking like the snow is no bother at all. Brussel sprouts are hanging in there too, but that is to be expected.

  4. ooh – If you’re giving some away … and you’re coming in this direction … ! (I’m sure we could come up with a fair trade.)
    I love anything that changes color with blooms coming and going at the same time. We have a rose that does that, come to think of it (Rosa mutabilis) but then I am a little addicted to the challenge of roses.

  5. Janiece Howell says:

    I just wanted to let you know how much joy your blog brings me. I used to be an avid gardener and due to failed back surgery I no longer can lose myself among the dirt and flowers and butterflies. Reading your blog allows me to revel in the loveliness of your pictures and words.


  6. margaret says:

    Welcome, Janiece. Your message, while poignant, is much appreciated–the idea that the blog is bringing you a bit of the garden is a nice one. I am glad to do so, very glad.

  7. GardenGrrrl says:

    I’m not a big fan of mums either, at least not the kind you find in garden centers in the fall as bedding plants. There are lots more interesting varieties, as you have discovered.

  8. leslie land says:

    Hi Margaret

    Thanks for the story, picture – and offer! Is Will less leggy than Clara Curtis, our unkillable, ever-spreading late mum? I love Clara’s subtle pink in this season of orange and bronze but despair of floppiness that no amount of spring pinching back seems to control.

    Be happy to trade you some of those peonies I was just blogging about having to move. Now that I’ve started to dig them up it’s clear there are TONS. (Letting strong old peonies sit in the vegetable garden for 15 years was in retrospect not wise.)

  9. L.T. TRAN says:

    Hi Margaret,

    It looks like a very hardy soul. I would love to try the mum. Would you like a tree peony or some clivia plants from my own hybridizing program?

    L.T. TRAN

  10. margaret says:

    Welcome, L.T. Come spring I will have to figure out a plant-distribution system for some of these abundant creatures, and we can do a swap! Thanks for visiting and so come again soon.

  11. joyce says:

    I LOVE CLARA CURTIS!!!!!! If you plant them in full sun they won’t be leggy. I love that they sprawl instead of looking like like heaps. They also stay rather confined and modest just until October, when they fairly spring up to be noticed. When they are in full bloom I have the urge to spread the joy all around next Spring, but that would be overkill.
    Margaret’s mums are beautiful! And I want them very badly.

  12. suzanne says:

    For years I have been wondering what kind of mum I had which only blooms in october. Thanks to you all I think it is Clara Curtis. Although it is a pale sort of flamingo pink color. No snow here on the jersey shore but lots of leaves leaves leaves to be raked up. Love your blog. Have been a fan of anne raver for many years now you!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Rebecca. I was hoping to find a commercial source again for everyone, and we shall see. If not, you never know…we might have to do a giveaway come spring from my million miles of it. See you soon again.

  13. Marion Jacobi says:

    Hello Margaret,
    I really look forward to reading your blog and emails when they show up in my inbox. I am very dissapointed that Wills Wonderful is not for sale anywhere. I would love to purchase a division or two or three from you if you are selling them. I am in NH….. Let me know and keep up the great gardening and writing!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Marion. I have been trying to see if we can get it situated at a new nursery to make it available again, with help from friends…otherwise I may in fact have to send bits to people come spring! Maybe we can make it a contest or something, and everyone can win a piece of ‘Will’ (since I am not a nursery, I don’t think I can sell him!). Stay in touch here or by email, awaytogarden at gmail dot com, and we will figure out the ‘Will’ challenge.

  14. Patricia says:

    Margaret, I am quite intrigued by your beautiful mum, I know this is an old post but I read all of them from beginning to end. I took the liberty of adding your link to my favorites on my web site. I hope you check it out at I am new at this so I would appreciate any comments. I love your site!

    1. Margaret says:

      @Patricia: Thanks, and yes, I did visit. I like to go see everyone who leaves a link here; so helpful to get a sense of who is reading. The mum is great, and I am hoping we can organize some distribution of it again by next spring. Stay tuned.

  15. annie says:

    Maybe I am getting to old for this, but I can’t find out how to order some of the mums from your website. Where is the cart icon?

  16. Julia Hofley says:

    I have purchased ‘Will’s Wonderful’ from Lazy S’s Farm and also a ‘Cambodian Queen’ which has just started to pop open. Still waiting for the debut of ‘Will’s Wonderful’.Might have a party when it shows its face. Meanwhile, garden mums, the real perennial types are just lovely in the garden. I’m not talking about porch mums. Those are pretty in pots for a fall farewell to the garden. The hardy chrysanthemums are gorgeous filler in and around all of my other perennials that have unattractive ankles right now or have already just collapsed on themselves. What would we do without the Autumn Crescendo series, Mums of Minnesota (the Football series) and Global Warming Mums from Vermont?! Along with the airy and colorful asters, these truly hardy (in Michigan) Mums are the fall finale in our garden here at Hawk Hill. Oh, and don’t forget the Sheffield series. Some of these Mums are fragrant, like Grandma’s powder when she hugged you to her neck when you were a kid! Chrysanthemums have got there name back now after a slight diversion being called Dendranthma’s…Ask for true perennial Mums when shopping so growers will know there’s an audience for them. Then they’ll be readily available in local markets in your community. (No I do not produce or sell Mums, I just LOVE them!) :)

  17. betsy says:

    I see Julia mentions a fragrant mum and I am still trying to track one down. I lpicked up a tiny 3′ pot at the check out counter a few years ago to put in a teacup on my desk. When it began to look “housebound” I tucked it into a corner of a sunny bed outside and for 3 years it popped back up – about 1 to 2 foot clump – bright yellow and smelled like heaven! I could smell it from 10 feet away and the bees loved it. No idea what the darling was but would love to find it – single flowered not pompom!!

  18. Deb says:

    Just wanted to tell you that this is the first year for Will’s Wonderful for me. It is indeed wonderful – 1 plant that is about 4 feet wide! I purchased it at your recommendation and I am so glad that I did – the colors really do pop and I may never have known about it – but for you. So, thank you for all your advice and for so generously helping untold numbers of gardeners. Best wishes and I do hope your power is on.

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