Astounding Asters

Astounding Asters

 I have way too many asters—Smooth Blue, New England, Aromatic, and Heath in my prairie gardens and Short’s and Side-flowering in my savanna gardens—that is, until September.  Now I’m emerged in joyful aster exuberance, exultation, abundance, generosity, verdancy, lushness, luxuriating in asters, intoxicated with asters…well. look for yourselves:


I’ve been so busy the last few weeks that I didn’t have time to write my weekly blog,  but my garden didn’t care–it just bloomed spectacularly without any attention from me whatsoever.  This is my savanna  garden on the other side of the garage.  The small tree is Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium), one of the best ornamental trees for spring blossoms and fall color that there is.  While shaded by the Black Walnut tree in the morning, this garden is  in full sun in the afternoon.  The border along the sidewalk is in full sun for most of the day.

Heath Aster and Aromatic Aster  make  a wonderful edge for a garden, particularly along a sidewalk, rich in calcium.  Showy Goldenrod grows near the trellis.

Heath Aster (Aster ericoides) named for its narrow heath-like leaves, grows 2 1/2 -3’ tall and around; its elongated clusters of tiny, white stars begin to bloom mid-September and carry on through mid-October.

Aromatic Aster (Aster oblongifolius) remains my favorite aster.  Perfect for a parkway–the stems lean over and make a mound only 2-2.5 ‘ tall.   It begins to bloom very sparsely at the beginning of September, but doesn’t hit its stride until the last week in September.  It will give a show until the end of October.  It loves limestone–plant it along a sidewalk or street curb or near limestone outcropping.


Aromatic Aster spilling over limestone outcropping.

West parkway:  a melange of New England Aster, Smooth Blue Aster, and Stiff Goldenrod.  This is mostly self-seeded.

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) is found in mesic prairie, moist meadows,  and conversely, dry pastures.   It used to be common along railroad tracks, but railroads seem to herbicide anything that grows near a track nowadays. Its brilliant royal purple daisies bloom at the top of 2-4’ tall stems beginning mid-September and lasting through October.



Sometimes New England Aster has pink flowers.  This was self-seeded.


 The blossoms of Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis) are lavender, not blue, but it does have smooth leaves and stems.  While it’s somewhat diminutive in the prairie, it grows  up to 4’ tall in the garden.  It needs competition or it will fall over.  In nature, it is found in prairie or along a woodland edge.   In this picture, the scarlet leaves of Foxglove Beard Tongue (Penstemon digitalis) contrast beautifully with the lavender-blue flowers of the aster.


Smooth Blue Aster in the Schulenberg Prairie in September.


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