Commonly called "mums" or "tansies", this popular perennial's name comes from the Greek chrysos (gold) and anthos (flower). The Chusan daisy became the "pompom chrysanthemum" — so called because in France, where it was first grown, it looked like the pompons on sailors' hats.
Chrysanthemums had been cultivated in Chinese gardens for more than 2,500 years before first being exhibited in England in 1795. Brought by visiting Buddhist monks, the chrysanthemum arrived in Japan in AD 400.
The chrysanthemum has been the focus of Oriental adulation for centuries.
In China, the chrysanthemum's association with autumn stems from its tendency to bloom in the fall. Consequently, the ancient Chinese chose the Chrysanthemum ("chu hua") as their Flower for October, a symbol of the rest and ease that followed the season's final harvest. Mums were considered one of the four Chinese "noble plants" (the others being bamboo, the plum, and the orchid), and were the official badge of the Old Chinese Army. Since chrysanthemums were considered the flower of the Chinese noble class, they were prohibited in a lower-class person's garden. The Chinese believe that a chrysanthemum given to one's beloved, after its being used to wipe one's mouth after drinking wine, will ensure undying love and fidelity.
Called "kikus" in Japanese, chrysanthemums were featured on the Imperial Crest of Japan, and were so beloved by Japanese emperors that they sat upon chrysanthemum thrones. The Japanese still hold the chrysanthemum as a symbol of the sun, and they consider the orderly unfolding of the mum's petals to be a symbol of perfection.They also presume that a single chrysanthemum petal placed in the bottom of a wine glass encourages a long and healthy life.
While chrysanthemums generally denote cheerfulness and rest, individual colors do carry specific messages: red for love, good luck and best wishes; white for truth; and yellow for slighted love. Chrysanthemums will be welcomed throughout the British Isles and North America for any occasion. In Italy, however, their exclusive association with the dead makes chrysanthemums acceptable only for funerals.