Mums the word at West Virginia University.

Visitors immediately notice those fall-colored chrysanthemumsall 1,500 of themthat are adding dashes of autumnal beauty these days to the Downtown and Evansdale campuses.

If Emily Kaminski has her way, though, the flowering plants will lay down other roots in a big wayby contributing to the coffers of the Plant and Soil Science Club, the organization she serves as treasurer.

The club is planning an international trip sometime in the future. And Kaminski, a senior horticulture major from Beckley, had the seed of a beautifully unique fundraising idea: Mums for money.

You can purchase one for yourself at just $7 during the WVU Farmers Market every Saturday.

Everybody loves mums,Kaminski said.It just seemed like a natural thing to do to raise money for the club, so I kind of initiated the idea.

Coming up with the idea was easy, she said, chuckling. It was the actual digging in that was hard work.

Thats because mums can be high-maintenance.

It began this past July (the normal blooming season for the plant) with a 10-foot fence, then a 5-foot electric on the inside after that, to keep out the deer and groundhogs that enjoy the plant not for aesthetics, but for flavor.

After that, a specially designed landscapefabricwas unrolled for the plants to sit on, and a whole irrigation system had to be designed and installed, just for this project.

The requisite watering and application of fertilizer followed (and followed some more) not to mention the pinching, prodding and other pruning techniques that were required to ensure that the plants achieve the desiredbranchingeffectthe move that makes them the stars of the florist shop.

Then there was that thing called themarathon drench.Bugs, you know.

All in all, it took some six club members about eight hours to plant more mums than you could slap your garden gloves at.

Dr. Sven Verlinden, an assistant professor of horticulture and the clubs adviser turned some earth himself to help, as did WVU s Sue Myers, and her staff at the Universitys greenhouse in Evansdale.

The professor praised the small, but active club (usually 10-15 members) for its work and innovation in the project. While mums the word for him, too, the finished product is most definitely the reward.

We do a lot of service work,Verlinden said,but I guess you could say it is also for pleasure.

Work and pleasure factored in for Rob Barbor, a horticulture major from Buckhannon and the clubs vice president. Hot days and dirt under his fingernails are what he remembers most about his chrysanthemum summer at WVU .

He did a lot of work on the fences that had to be constructed and shared mum baby-sitting duties with Kaminski, maintaining the plants, no matter what, on sweltering days and in downpours.

Its a really good experience,he said,and its a good chance to put yourself in the job market.

Kaminski agrees, and says she feels fortunate to have taken root at WVU with a major she loves and a mums-for-money project that just cant miss.

I think it was a great opportunity for the club and my future career,said the student who has also worked on a golf course as a horticulturist.We have a really open and encouraging staff, and a lot of people dont get a chance to gain this knowledge.