Late Summer Prairie Garden

 

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Rough Liatris and Showy Goldenrod make a striking late summer combination.  The blossoms of Rough Liatris (Liatris aspera) begin to open at the top of the stem in mid to late August and continue with a spectacular show well into September.  Its flower tufts spill out of  the large cups arranged in an open fashion alternately around the 1-4’ stem.     In nature it is found in dry prairie or sandy Black Oak savanna, but will grow in full sun in  well-drained, mesic loam.  Blazing Stars grow from corms in the manner of a crocus; in wet winters and springs the corms sometimes rot, so one must be careful to plant them in well-drained situations.  They also like a calcareous situation; planting them next to concrete or rocks increases their size dramatically.

 

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It is growing out of a matrix of Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) in bloom now also.   Growing 1-3’ tall, the gorgeous, bright golden plumes set the prairie aglow all through the month of  September.   The seed heads of Purple Coneflower add  to the picture.

 

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Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) adds another color and another layer to the picture.  (The Latin name for this genus used to be Aster.)

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The tiny blue-green needle-like foliage was thought to resemble that of Heath; thereby the name.  Tiny, gold-centered white stars form dense plumes at the top of stiff 1’ to 3’ stems beginning in mid-September and lasting through mid-October.  In the wild it is found in dry and mesic  prairies and hill prairies.  It increases by rhizomes and seed.  Don’t confuse it with  the similar-looking Hairy Aster (Symphyotrichum pilosus), a weedy plant, common in waste ground, abandoned fields, old pastures, and rights-of-way.  How to tell the difference?  The flowers of Hairy Aster are larger, and the stems are, well, hairy.

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Little Bluestem  (Schizachyrium scoparium) is not apparent in the prairie photo, but it would add immeasurably to the composition, both environmentally and aesthetically.  The dazzling white, feathery seeds catch the light in fall and sparkle like diamonds on the now copper, 3-4’ stems.

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