Every year during our Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween tours, the number one question visitors ask Oakland’s gardens team is, “What are all of these gorgeous colorful flowers blooming everywhere!? There are white ones and pink ones and red ones with yellow centers and they kinda look like daisies.” The answer is, of course, mums (or chrysanthemums if you want to get specific)!
Chrysanthemums were originally bred by the Chinese, and we can thank them for several thousand varieties cultivated since the 1500s. Europeans began breeding mums in the 1800s. In Victorian flower language, the various colors and forms represent a wide range of emotions, from intense love and friendship to comfort in times of sorrow. Funerals were often inundated with gifts of mums, which mourners would eventually plant at the graveside. Unfortunately, none of these original plants survived when Oakland went into decline in the middle of the last century. However, the restoration of the historical chrysanthemums remains a high priority and a symbol of hope for Oakland’s gardens.
Today, Oakland Cemetery is home to dozens of varieties of fall-blooming, perennial garden mums, most of which are heirloom cultivars collected over the years. We have tall mums, short mums, plain mums, curly mums, and even some mums that look like matchsticks! All of them help bring fall color into Oakland’s 48 acres of gardens.