Mums the Word


Once, years and years ago, I was a dinner guest at Lambert, then the Rothschild’s mansion on Île Saint-Louis, Paris. It was an extraordinary evening and such a pleasure to be a guest of the baron and baroness. It was there that I saw a photograph of a long table set for a dinner party which had taken place at Lambert. On the table, in this beautiful and stylishly bedecked manse, were pompon chrysanthemums. And they looked perfect.

Mums are often maligned, but they don’t deserve it. That photograph I saw at Lambert was confirmation that you can take something that costs practically nothing and put it in pretty surroundings, and it will look great. The photograph at Lambert served as the inspiration for the cozy dinner for four that I created for these first few photos. (Please excuse the reproduction quality here, these are scans of chromes from my archive.)

What follows is a myriad of mums in an array of colors and settings… And hopefully proof that we should drop any cynicism we have for this grocery store darling, the chrysanthemum.



The gold pompons nestled tightly together in the glow of candlelight signal the season.

When the dahlias are finished for the year, chrysanthemums hold on through the fall in New England. Mums are one of the few flowers I enjoy at Weatherstone, but which I don’t grow. They’re so affordable and easy to find at the local nursery that I prefer to pick them up in pots when the season sets in.


I love the way the dark fuchsia variety look with the ornamental kale.


The russet color is the perfect shade to echo the changing leaves.

The earthy tones of the chrysanthemum arrangements in these following photographs of a luncheon I hosted in the stable not only mirror the season but also the rich, dark wood paneling, windowpanes, and furniture. White linens give clean contrast and show off the raw and burnt umber shades.



Mixing a species gives a variety of scale and color.


Berries add texture to these tiny daisy mum bouquets.


The rust detailing on these early 19th century English creamware plates by Copeland, is the signal that the warm fall colors will work with the blue and white palette. (Bill Blass collected the brown and rust colorway of this transferware, but I’ve always thought the Greek colorway, as the blue and white is called, is more feminine.)


Warm russet, burgundy, Bourdeau, garnet, yellow-orange, spiked with the hypernicum berries. I love the way the chartreuse centers are echoed by the green in the crabapples—an element I brought in from the garden.


These big, yellow California mums remind me of the homecomings of my youth. It was the custom to wear a mum corsage to the game and dance. In the U.S., mums are often associated with thrift. Yet in other countries, particularly Japan, they are considered a flower of great beauty.



Above, in this Japanese vase, they work well with the strong lines and look thoroughly modern. Are you surprised that this is a Japanese bronze vase from the early 18th century?


Switching color palettes —one of the other things to love about mums is that they are available in so many shades — I’ve played off of the rosy shades in this Majolica pitcher. The flowers here have petals that fade from rose pink in the center to shell pink on the outside. The snowberries mixed in have had just a touch of frost, which gives them the pinkish hue.


In the autumn, I have a tendency to mix fruits and flowers. The plate of grapes, pears and apples, picks up the colors of the majolica and the burgundy browns in the fabric.


In another part of the barn, I hosted a little  lunch for three, using English transferware, fabric I love and simple baskets of rosy colored mums. I just love the huge variety of mums and the zillion different looks you can get with the same flower.




Browns and ambers abound here. Country earthenware and amber goblets are the perfect shades and weights to go with these large rust and yellow beauties.


Always thinking about how the food will look on the table, this pastry-covered poached pear is one of my favorite fall desserts. Nancy does a beautiful job of “dressing” the fruit for dinner.


Purple, purple, purple. Surprise your guests with the royal shade of little pompons, daisies, and big blooms that almost looks like a strange gerbera daisies. Pick a color that you like and bounce it off of objects you already have, in my case amethyst — sometimes matching and sometimes contrasting.


Be glad chrysanthemums are cheap. They’re also chic, so go nuts with them this autumn! They’re guaranteed to bring cheer when it seems as if everything else is dying.



25 thoughts on “Mums the Word

  1. Thank you readers for all of your wonderful comments on Aspen Autumn. They are fun to read and are a great inspiration and encouragement to me. Thanks a million Carolyne

  2. Another lovely post! I like them as well and also as a tea but in certain parts of Asia they are synonymous with flowers reserved for funeral wreaths. Hence nobody likes to decorate with them as it symbolizes a terrible event. Having said that some superstitious people won’t even decorate with roses due to the thorns…
    PS your tablescapes are unmatched.

    • coulda shoulda woulda:
      I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you had used the word “tablescapes” in your comment, or I would have never asked my question. I did not mean it to be a “snarky” comment, it’s just that I never heard the word used before a Food Network host used it. Guess I’m just wondering how popular the term actually is!

  3. Carolyne,
    These are beautiful! Who makes the spectacular “ribbed” candles, please?
    Many Thanks.

  4. Ooooh Carolyne! You’ve done it again; what glorious table settings! I’d like to dine at each and every table you’ve created, which is why I have purchased every book you’ve ever written! (I already looked up the poached pears wrapped in pastry recipe from your “Fall Notebook” — thank you again.) May I ask what your opinion of the word, “tablescape” is? For some reason, I don’t care for the word…..

    • No worries! It seems that I see that term used in American magazines. House beautiful do a monthly “tablescape” column so I thought it was adjust the new word! I usually ask how one sets the table but yes I would love to know what term Carolyne uses.

  5. Oh Carolyne! ANOTHER feast for the eyes. You are such a divine artist working here with mums, but ALL your posts are so beautiful. You’re an inspiration. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

  6. Carolyne, You are the very best. So kind and thoughtful of you to write these wonderful posts. I own all your books. I treasure them and look at them frequently. I share them with friends as well. Thanks you so much.

  7. It just gets better and better,if that is possible! Truly beautiful.
    Always excited when I see that there is a post from you in my inbox.You NEVER let us down.

  8. What a beautiful post.
    I was scrolling down and instantly thought of past homecomings also!
    For me I love that the beauty of flowers always evokes a memory. Wonderful inspiration on the color combinations with the china. Thank you!

  9. Oh my word Carolyne,,,Truly inspired and glorious..Perfection indeed…As I am always trying to explain to people,it is the last ten percent of attention to detail which makes one hundred percent of the difference…I am sat in Dorset and the skies are heavy and grey,your pictures have thrown a ray of sunshine and colour into my day and I thank you…
    My very best and warmest wishes,
    Jonathan Sainsbury

  10. Gorgeous, as always! And thank you for demonstrating that the “lowly” Mum is indeed a knockout, with so many varieties and shades…just like another favorite of mine, Carnations. When used artfully and in masses, they are truly beautiful!

  11. Stunning displays! Of course you could style dead twigs and make them look glorious! I must admit to a snobbish feeling about mums but will give those “supermarket darlings” another look. Thank you for the inspiration. I’ll buy some today and use your images for inspiration!

  12. True, Carolyne – and carnations are also considered infra dig. They last for ever and have a great scent. Unfortunately chrysanthemums are flowers for mourning (I am Hungarian) so one sees them on graves…..

  13. Love mums! Their colors are always so rich….and I am probably one of the few people who actually loves the fragrance of a mum! Your tablescapes are once again dazzling and will inspire me for the holidays to come….our hunt dinner, Thanksgiving!

  14. I’m dizzy with delight at the varied textures, colors, and creativity with the gorgeous elements you used on these tables. And what a delicious joy it is when you have time and energy to decorate with real flowers, especially Mums! Thank you for the feast for my eyes and mind! Just delightful! Such a gift for us all – thank you for sharing!

  15. Just the other day I suggested to a dear friend to check out your blog. Yesterday she emailed saying she was so excited about your posting on mums that she wants me to come for dinner. It inspired her and I’ll give you one guess how she will be decorating her table. I am writing this to thank you for the utterly beautiful post on mums and to let you know how in doing so you impact our lives in a positive way.

  16. Thank you for the rich jewel colours – the flowers, the china, the textiles…..all stunning and beautiful! Very inspiring!!

  17. Love the use of this great fall flower. I am always surprised that so few florist ever use them since they are so cheap, but I think a lot of designers do not understand the value of mixing. My local florist I have worked with and now you can pick up a arrangement for 15.00 that will fill a kitchen table for a week using mums. He has thanked me for the clever use. Ha ha.. Great blog post, Beth

  18. You confirm with your pictures and your great availability that: “Il faut cultiver notre jardin!”
    In all its meanings.
    Thank you Carolyne!

  19. When you wrote this post I was in PARIS!
    How funny I looked at MUMS yesterday at the nursery as they really spoke to me…………but walked away.MUST GO BACK!
    Your garden with the cabbage and MUMS is stunning!
    That pear……….wrapped up in its tiered blanket!!Good grief…… it easy to do?
    Lovely table settings as always……..You have THE EYE!

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