Thanks for your question Linda. First let’s tackle the question why your mums aren’t making it through the winter. First, make sure you are buying ‘Winter Hardy Mums’ There are lots of mums out there these days and the ones you might pick up at the grocery store may not be varieties that are hardy this far north. Go to a real garden center like Hewitts and get your mums there. Even hardy mums want to get into the ground as soon as possible after purchase. Many folks like to leave their mums in the pots for display and then pop then in the ground at the last second before the ground freezes in the fall. This doesn’t give the mum much time to get some roots into its new location and makes it much harder for them to winter over well. Once the flowers have finished, they should be cut off (leave the leaves) to prevent the mum from wasting energy producing seed. If you remove the flowers, that energy will be used to grow roots instead. To get your mums to be low and bushy the following growing season you’ll need to pinch it a couple of times to get it to branch out and look more like it did when you bought it. There is a fact sheet you can pick up at Hewitts that describes this procedure in detail. As far as a substitute for mums I’d suggest hardy asters. Unlike the mum which comes from China, asters are native to North American and there are varieties that grow wild in this area. Fancier cultivated asters have larger blooms that the wild varieties but are just as hardy. You can find a selection of asters at Hewitts along with the mums. It is a personal preference but I prefer asters and have some in my flowerbeds. Give asters a try, I think you’ll enjoy them too.