Let’s talk about the Aster

Beginning of September

Beginning of September

The purple Aster or the New England (aster novae angliae) which lines the racks at many home stores and nurseries is a great fall bloomer and companion in your gardens with the mums and Autumn Joy Sedums. This hardy perennial is zoned 4-8 and is a native found in the Midwest all the way to the East Coast. This purple roadside beauty can grow up to 6′ tall and self sow in any area that makes it happy. This native beauty likes moist conditions and does not have any real pest or disease problems except stem rot or powdery mildew caused by standing in water or overwatering.

Bloom times range from late summer to early fall. There is no real maintenance to these beauties except that many gardeners will snip and trim off the ends to keep the plant compact and from blooming too early. This technique is also done with many other perennials such as mums and sedum. For me I am a ‘lazy’ gardener and I just let the plants be.

On sale now

On sale now

The New England Aster does not like to dry out but with watering can grow in dry areas. In my flower bed, however, this plant has only grown to be about 24″ tall and stays compact. I attribute some of this to the hard clay soil. It does not self seed in my flower beds (maybe) because I have 4″ of mulch which I find can inhibit self sowing on many plants. I also have wondered if the neighbors over use of sprays and chemicals has also attributed to the decline of pollinators which can hinder reproduction in many plants.

This year I am adding more to my beds. Because I do not have the optimum conditions-hard dry clay under oak trees with light shade to part sun conditions, my asters may not grow to their full potential.  I take chances on many plants and many times it pays off. That is why my motto is “gardening without the rules” because sometimes you can make the impossible happen.

New York aster

New York aster

Now I have to talk about another native aster that sometimes is mixed in at the home store garden centers along with the New England is the New York Aster (Aster novi-belgii syn Symphytotrichum novi-belgii). It has some very similar features of the New England and its color vary from white, light, and dark purple. There are many cultivars and sometimes what the tag says may or may not be accurate as far as heights and widths go. Plant tags are just a guideline and if you live in a higher zone or have the perfect growing conditions the plant could surprise you. {I also just learned that this aster is known as the Michaelmas aster because it blooms around St. Michael’s day September 29 in the British isles.}native aster

There are over 600 varieties of asters in the world! There are many growing along the roadsides as you drive down the road or take a hike in the park. In my area of the country, the white ones are commonly found in the ditches along the roads and in open fields. The one pictured above is what I took in a ditch near my home and I believe it to be a Frost Aster. There are many white asters so to identify any plant a close-up up of the flower, stems, and leaves is important. Many times it may look like the same flower but the leaves can be different. random yard 028

Asters are important for butterflies and bees and need to be pollinated because the plants are hermaphrodite which means they have male and female reproduction and need the bees, butterflies, and other insects to pollinate for the seeds to be viable. Asters can reseed themselves or be divided which is most often the way to increase your plants because the seeds do not always germinate. 14 - 1

Explaining to many that bees, butterflies and other insects is important part of being a gardener. Using natives as much as possible in your landscape can actually cut down on your time in the garden weeding and watering while still giving you beautiful blooms for you to enjoy. This is why I have to add that spraying for mosquitoes on a wide scale by polluting the air and the trees does more harm than good. When you spray for all these ‘bad’ bugs, you are actually killing the Monarch butterfly, the honey bees, and ladybugs who are just a few of nature’s beautiful creatures who have a purpose in our world. So please before you spray that spider, ask yourself “is he harming me? Is he going to kill me? is he hurting anything?” Before you spray make sure of what you are spraying. Killing mosquitoes requires finding the sources of standing water where they breed and taking measures to eliminate that.

Okay, that is enough of my soap box for today…20140817_145543Another great plus to adding asters to your garden is that they are deer resistant! One of the few things deer will NOT eat,  which if you live in an area where they are prevalent, this is important. So run to your local nursery or garden center and pick up a few to plant. If they have some on the markdown rack all bloomed out, buy them and remember that next year they will be beautiful! I do caution you about buying the if they are dried up on the racks or if they have been overwatered. Sometimes gardening is about taking chances.

I love all things blooming and beautiful.

Creating. Inspiring. Gardening without the rules!

2014/15 copyrighted material C Renee Fuller @the Garden Frog Boutique

Here are some links to check out for more info: http://www.gardenguides.com/taxonomy/new-york-aster-symphyotrichum-novi-belgii-var-novi-belgii/

visit the Missouri Botanical Garden website and you can search for plant info

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