Commentary: Chrysanthemum tea, an opponent to the flu

This season's cold and damp in the garden seems to bring on cold and damp in he gardener. Some of us will get the flu and some of us will not as if it deemed by the stars who shall suffer. The flu, which is short for, the Italian word "influenza" originally was thought caused not by germs but by the visitation, or influence of the stars.

Stars of the fall garden are the Chrysanthemum. But this cheerful flower, often called simply "mums", was originally grown as a medicinal herb, importantly used to speed recovery from influenza. It was also used to treat acne and as a "cooling" herb, traditional Chinese medicine tea from it was used to prevent sore throat and reduce fever.

Chrysanthemum tea is made by boiling the flowers usually just the white and yellow ones Chrysanthemum tea is drunk to treat varicose veins and atherosclerosis, and is said to clear the liver and the eyes.

Fall mums come in a various shades of red, pink, purple, yellow, bronze, orange, cream and white. Chrysanthemums are the official seal of the Japanese Emperor and honored in the Japanese Festival of Happiness. Quite a journey for a flower that started out as a tiny, yellow daisy-shaped blossom.

After frost has killed your plants, cut them back to the ground. Cover the stubs with a light mulch such as evergreen branches or straw. Avoid constant wetness or ice on them during the winter. Frost heaving can toss the plants right out of the ground. Frost heaving is caused by alternate freezing and thawing of the soil.

In the spring carefully remove the mulch and top dress your Chrysanthemums with a good organic fertilizer. You might want to lightly fertilize your mums every few weeks with a weak organic fertilizer.

If you're planting mums choose a sunny spot with well drained soil. The soil should be slightly acidic with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Space the plants a good 18 inches apart. Once your mums are 6 inches tall pinch them back so they become bushier and have more flowers.

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