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Acer's Florist & Garden Center
Edition 18.41 Acer's Florist & Garden Center October 11, 2018

Fall Festival - October 13

Fall is almost here

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The History of the Pumpkin

Pumpkins are thought to have originated in the ancient Americas, although the pumpkins of that time would probably not be recognizable as such today. Related to squash, gourds and melons, the early pumpkin had a crooked neck and was particularly valued because it stored well. Archeological digs have shown that pumpkins were cultivated by Native Americans along river and creek banks along with sunflowers and beans.

Pumpkins helped sustain Native Americans through many a long, cold winter. They prepared the sweet flesh in a variety of ways including roasting, baking, parching, boiling and drying. But the flesh was not the only part of the fruit that was used; the blossoms were added to stews and pumpkin seeds were consumed and also used for medicinal purposes. In addition, dried pumpkin was often ground into flour.

The pumpkin was used for non-food purposes as well. The shells were dried and used as bowls and containers in which to store grain, beans and seeds. Dried pumpkin flesh was also pounded thin and cut into strips, which were then woven into mats that were later used for trading.

Christopher Columbus encountered the pumpkin when he visited America. He transported some seeds back to Europe with him. The seeds were used to feed pigs, but not as a human food source at that time.

Most of us are aware of the story of how the Native Americans introduced the Pilgrims to many local foods which helped sustain them through the subsequent--sometimes brutal--winters. Pumpkins were one of these foods; they proved a valuable resource because of their ability to be stored for long periods of time without spoiling.

Pumpkins were served at the second Thanksgiving celebration, but not in the pie form so popular today. The Pilgrims cut off the top of the pumpkin, scooped the seeds out and filled the cavity with cream, honey, eggs and spices. The top was then replaced and the pumpkin was buried in the ashes of a cooking fire. The custard-like contents were then eaten along with the cooked flesh.

Another popular Pilgrim recipe was pumpkin beer, which was a fermented concoction of persimmons, hops, maple sugar and pumpkin.

The hollowed out shell of the pumpkin was used as a template for Pilgrim haircuts. As a result of this practice, New Englanders were sometimes called "pumpkinheads."

Today, one of the primary uses for pumpkins is as carved jack-o'-lanterns during Halloween. It was not always so. The earliest jack-o'-lanterns were carved from turnips and potatoes (by the Irish and Scottish) and beets (by the English). Lumps of coal were lit on fire and placed inside the hollowed-out vegetables. When European settlers came to America, they found a new favorite for this practice--the pumpkin. Pumpkins proved far superior to their earlier counterparts by virtue of their strong walls and large hollow cavity.

Today, pumpkins are available in all colors and sizes, further expanding their uses as a decorative element as well as a food source. From miniatures to huge specimens, there is a pumpkin to fit every need.

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Loving Your Mum

Chrysanthemums are one of the staples of the late fall garden. Their hardiness and color range make them perfect for both the landscape and container holiday arrangements.

These tough plants will thrive in less than ideal conditions, although they prefer full to partial sun and good, well drained soil. Their shallow root system dictates that they be watered often. Apply a balanced fertilizer on a regular basis.

After plants are done blooming, pinch or shear back so the mum will eventually develop a bushier shape. Once fall arrives again, don't trim them anymore so buds can develop, and switch to a fertilizer higher in phosphorus to promote blooming.

Mums will survive winter fine in our zone; however, it doesn't hurt to apply a layer of mulch over your mums to protect them. Aphids are the main mum munchers. Other than those little beasts, mums experience little other insect damage.

Believe it or not, the one thing that can really affect the flowering of your mums is nighttime light, so do not plant them where they will be exposed to streetlights or foundation lighting. Like us humans, mums need a good night's sleep to be at their best.

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