Bonsai Mums: a potted chrysanthemum dwarfed and trained to an artistic shape.
If you are the former, then you may need the latter.
I went to a spectacularly large garden today with a conservatory, a meadow and lots and lots of chrysanthemums. I knew from writing My China Travel Journal that chrysanthemums originated in China, so I took a special interest in them, especially noting that there are many varieties beyond what most folks buy to put next to their pumpkins in their fall decorations.
But, it wasn’t until I got to the bonsai display and saw a bonsai chrysanthemum (aka Bonsai Mum) that I realized what a great place this was to bring kids for an educational little trip around the world.
Now, if you were there with me, you would wonder why it took me so long to figure that out. I practically had to blaze a serpentine path to get past the strollers and school groups at the ticket office. But, I was there with two friends, and my head was in the clouds of the warm-sun, cool-breeze day and I needed a really clear signal to get focused.
So, here’s my suggestion. Take a trip to a garden or garden shop and browse the plants with world origins in mind. The plant world is as worldly as the human world. They’ve traveled from their home countries and made new homes for themselves in new cultures. Plants like chrysanthemums that are now very common in North America started as a plant only in Asia.
Besides chrysanthemums from China and bonsai, which are popular in both China and Japan, there were many other plants with world origins. There were orchids which grow well in warm, humid climates. I’ve seen them growing wild in Thailand and Vietnam. There was Mexican sage with velvety purple flower stalks. And Victoria water platters which are giant (3′-4′) lily pads that look like something in a Disney display rather than a live plant and are a hybrid of two plants from South America.
Don’t have a world-class garden nearby? No problem. Try any garden store. I took this photo of some lovely bonsai in my neighborhood garden center a little while ago. Take a few little toys along and ask your child to tell you a story of what happened under the bonsai tree and you will likely be delighted by why you hear.
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