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The Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Show at Abinger Hammer

PUBLISHED: 09:30 21 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:17 20 February 2013

The Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Show at Abinger Hammer

The Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Show at Abinger Hammer

With the splendid blooms of chrysanthemums being showcased at a special display in Abinger Hammer this month, it seemed an opportune moment to meet local exhibition grower Peter Webster who specialises in these stunning flowers

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2010

With the splendid blooms of chrysanthemums being showcased at a special display in Abinger Hammerevery November, it seemed an opportune moment to meet local exhibition grower Peter Webster who specialises in these stunning flowers

Growing prize-winning chrysanthemums has been a part of Reigate resident Peter Websters life for many years. Although he joined the National Chrysanthemum Society and the Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society in 1975, his experience goes back even further, to his youth in the north of England.

Everyone had an allotment and greenhouse, and theyd grow tomatoes followed by chrysanthemums, says Peter. It seemed the usual thing and I thought I should do it to earn some pocket money a decorative bunch of chrysanths made half-a-crown.

Then it turned out that every town had competitions, so it just seemed a natural progression to grow for showing, and I like that you can put a bit of your own character into chrysanthemums.

The challenge of growing the flowers for shows entails a bit more work than for the general home-grown varieties. Not only do they need to be as perfect as possible, they have to stand out on the judging bench in their different categories, too. Judges can identify, often from the colour, form, size or staging, who has grown particular blooms, adds Peter.

If you would like to try growing some special show chrysanthemums, Peter offers some useful advice from his years of exhibiting. The trick, he says, is getting the growing conditions just right by adjusting the indoor and outdoor arrangements to cope with the vagaries of the weather.

Handy hints
I take cuttings in January and put them outside in the cold frame from April, he explains. Then, in May or June, I place the pots on the standing ground. As the buds split from around September, I progressively bring the pots back into the greenhouse to flower.

When they finish flowering, I mark the best ones to propagate from, with second and third choices as back-up, spray them with insecticides and fungicides, and leave them without water in the cold frames. In December, I give them a bit of heat in readiness for the cuttings.

Later this month, there is an opportunity to discover the beauty of late season chrysanthemums by visiting the Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Show at Abinger Hammer, and who knows, you too may fall under their spell.

You could need up to 20 pots to ensure good blooms of one variety, though! adds Peter. It is still a case of trial and error, selecting the ones that succeed, to ensure the very best blooms possible.

The Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Show isheld at Abinger Hammer Village Hall at Abinger Hammer, near Dorking, in November. To find out more about growing chrysanthemums for exhibition, visit

Growing tips for garden chrysanthemums

  • Plant in spring after the last frosts

  • Full sun is best

  • They like light, fertile soil

  • Need good drainage

  • Feed regularly until buds set

  • Pinch out inferior buds to help achieve large blooms

  • Take cuttings from February to May

  • Divide every three to five years

  • Cut back and mulch to protect through the winter months

Did you know?

  • Chrysanthemums are the birth flower for November

  • They belong to the Asteraceae family, one of the largest families of flowering plants with around 20,000 species

  • In China, the leaves are used in cooking, while in Asia chrysanthemum tea is enjoyed and believed to be relaxing as well as medicinal

  • Modern varieties are more showy than their wild relatives and are divided into garden or exhibition varieties

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