Garden Clippings for October 13, 2018
A month ago, it was Goldenrods. They filled ditch banks and meadows everywhere. They were so plentiful that it seemed there was little room for anything else.
Today it is the Blue Aster that surprises us as we drive down the countryside. They appear as early as September and their distinctive blue daisy-like flowers persist till late October.
Like fall garden Mums, Asters are signalled into flower in response to the shortening day length. Through spring and summer Asters are hardly noticed as their leaves and stems grow, but by fall their buds open as garden showstoppers.
Asters are a diverse group of plants ranging in both size and colour. in the wild, Asters are often blue and less often white, and will usually grow to 2 or 3 feet. In the cultivated garden Asters can be only a few inches high ranging in all colours. Blue Asters tend to be everyone’s favorite because few other flowers bloom in blue, particularly in the fall garden.
To add to the confusion in the Aster family, they are known by many names including Michaelmas Daisy, Starworts, Wood Aster, New England Aster, New York Aster and Frost Flowers. All are perennial and sun-loving.
Asters are not fond of water and appreciate well drained soil. Blue Asters that are found at the edge of the roadway grow comfortably in gravel where nothing else survives. Their tough wiry roots go deep in search of moisture.
Butterflies are fond of Asters. As soon as the summer flowering perennials such as Echinacea, Rudbeckia and Shasta Daisy are finished flowering, butterflies shift their attention to Asters in search of nectar. Bees too love Asters.
Those who cut flowers to bring a vase indoors appreciate Asters for their long-lasting bloom. Choose a tall growing variety for cutting and be sure to leave some behind in the garden for bees and butterflies.
In the home garden, plant Asters where they will receive plenty heat and sunshine. If your garden is clayey, plant Asters high and dry where their roots won’t be waterlogged. Asters enjoy fertilizer but are not heavy feeders like most perennials.
Like garden Mums, Asters perform better if they are pruned in early summer. Allow the plants to grow normally until June and simply cut off their stems near ground level. The result will be a plant that is shorter, forming a tight mound and packed with longer lasting blooms.
Not long ago it was Goldenrods. Today it’s Wild Asters. Next it will be the brightly coloured leaves of Sumac that grace the edge of rural roadways.