Debbie Arrington

Drought-affected Sacramento Chrysanthemum Show lines up best buds

Ted King works at King’s Mums in 2006. The retired nurseryman will be honored at this weekend’s show.
Ted King works at King’s Mums in 2006. The retired nurseryman will be honored at this weekend’s show. Sacramento Bee file

Blame it on the drought. This weekend’s 67th annual Sacramento Chrysanthemum Show won’t have the usual opulence that flower lovers have come to expect.

“Puny,” said organizer Jeff MacDonald, a longtime stalwart of the mum show. “That’s how I would describe this mum season. We have smaller flowers and a lot less of them.”

MacDonald attributes this to mandatory cutbacks on water use due to the drought.

“We’ve all cut way down on our watering, and the mums have suffered,” he lamented. “The flowers just don’t have the size and substance that they should have for a show. It has to be the drought.”

Also, the flowers are opening much later than usual, if at all.

“The mums are very, very late this year,” MacDonald said. “We were afraid that there wouldn’t be enough for a show. … Usually, we’ll have upwards of 250 blooms (for the judged competition). If we have 100 flowers, we’ll be lucky.”

But the mum show, and sale, will go on. The club still has many potted mums to sell, although most of the flowers still haven’t opened.

“They go early – really early, like within the first two hours of opening the doors,” MacDonald said of the potted mums.

This year’s show salutes a local mum pioneer, Ted King, whose King’s Mums nursery for more than 40 years was a landmark near Clements. Failing health forced him to sell the nursery in 2008. Now in his 90s, King gave away the last of his personal plant collection earlier this year.

“Ted is well known all over the world for his contributions to chrysanthemums,” MacDonald said. “We wanted to do something while he’s still around.”

In King’s honor, the show’s arrangements will be themed after varieties of mums that he developed and introduced such as King’s Radiance, King’s Sceptor and King’s Treasure.

Most of Ted King’s creations can be pretty hard to find, although MacDonald expects some blooms (if they open) at the show.

▪ As for King’s Mums nursery, it remains the nation’s go-to source of unusual mum varieties with more than 200 cultivars (including many of Ted King’s favorites and dozens of vintage varieties). But that specialty nursery is moving – again.

Kim and Ray Gray, who bought the nursery and relocated it to Oregon after Ted’s 2008 retirement, are retiring, too. They recently announced that they sold King’s Mums to Brian and Sheila Kanotz of Tulsa, Okla., and the mum-growing operation has been relocated to the Tulsa area. For mum lovers throughout the nation, the new owners retained the same familiar name and website,

Battling stinkers

The relentless march indoors of the brown marmorated stink bugs has many residents in downtown and midtown Sacramento on high alert. The spread of this invasive creature seems to be growing.

“We’ve been seeing them for a few years,” said Joanne Castronovo of Carmichael. “They hang out on our firewood, so when we bring it in for a fire, they’re often hitchhiking! Last year, we also began to get leaf-footed bugs, especially on our tomatoes. It was a battle! We finally got some spray at the nursery that kind of helped temporarily. They were back again this year, but not as bad.”

Facing these relentless invaders, some folks have found creative ways to stop these critters in their tracks.

“I live downtown near the Crocker (Art Museum) and they’ve gotten so bad, I have to tape up every opening, even the fireplace,” said Regina Fagan of Sacramento. “I’ve found one thing that works: dish detergent.”

Fagan fills a spray bottle with dish-washing liquid and water, then squirts the stinkers whenever they appear.

“That will kill them instantly, and it’s nontoxic,” she said. “Soapy water is wonderful.”

Dale Creasey of Fair Oaks offers his stink bug-stopping recipe:

Mix together 1/4 cup of dish soap (“Dawn is what I use,” he said), 1/4 cup bleach (“cheap” is OK) and 1 gallon water. Mix and put in a spray bottle.

“This makes a contact spray that will kill stink bugs and the eggs if sprayed on either,” Creasey said. “I use it to kill squash bugs – stinkers by another name – in and on my hybrid zucchini.

“It is also good for mildew, molds, spider mites, aphids and I suspect about any bug or bee on contact,” he added. “It leaves no poisonous residue and does not appear to harm plants even with nearly complete wetting.”

Take that, you little stinkers!

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.


What: See scores of colorful and many unusual varieties of mums. This year’s show includes a salute to mum expert Ted King.

Where: Shepard Garden and Arts Center, 3330 McKinley Blvd., Sacramento

When: 1-4 p.m. today, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free