Monday Melange–Who Needs Chrysanthemums?

Monday Melange

Who Needs Chrysanthemums?

Serendipity. I didn’t design this, but isn’t it a stunning combination?  Heath Aster (Aster ericoides) and Butterfly Weed seedpods (Asclepias tuberosa) show off against a backdrop of the huge magnificent leaves of Prairie Dock (Silphium  terebinthinaceum).  Prairie Dock bears yellow daisy flowers at the top of 10’ stems in July, but that’s not the main feature.  The enormous spade-shaped leaves are a dramatic accent in a prairie or prairie garden from June through winter.   Always plant it in the foreground, even though the flower stems reach 10’ in height.  It’s the leaves that are the dominant design feature.


More views

Front corner with Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) to the right of trellis.  Soft, muted colors of early fall.

Front corner with Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis) to the left of trellis.

Back yard savanna and arch.  Faded Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) in left corner.

Birdbath under arch surrounded by Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis).

Short’s Aster under Redbud tree in patio.

The golden centered, lavender-blue daisy flowers of Short’s Aster form an elongated, graceful panicle at the top of 2-4’ stems alternately clothed with long arrow-shaped leaves.  The weight of the flower clusters inevitably causes the plants to lean over giving them a casual, charming look. Short’s Aster begins to bloom mid-September, carrying on through mid-October.  It thrives in savanna or woodland in mesic or dry-mesic conditions, often found in woodland borders, limestone bluffs, rocky open woodlands and slopes, and along woodland paths.  It increases in two different ways: by fluffy seed spread by the wind and by rhizomes that may become clonal–perfect for growing along fences–see below:

Short’s Aster growing along the east side of my patio fence on my neighbor’s side.

Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) and a few faded Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa var. sullivantii) decorate clay pots under the bench next to the brick walk that connects my house to the garage.


One usually views Blue-stemmed  Goldenrod from above- all the leaves and flowers face upward.  This one-sided configuration makes the plant ideal for making wreaths–hence the other common name –Wreath Goldenrod. Its tiny yellow daisies grow in the axils of the leaves; Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) is the only other Goldenrod with this feature.

As the blossoms mature, the pointed lanceolate leaves hang down from the loosely arching, bloomy purplish-green stems and give a fringed look to the plant.  It spreads slowly by rhizomes, its arched stems never becoming  higher than 2’ tall.  My oldest plant is situated next to the brick walk on the north side of my house next to the back door; the other one, wind-seeded at the other end of  the walk against the south side of the garage, between the brick walk and the garage wall.  It’s in full sun; the other in full shade; I have another in my savanna garden, in partial shade.  In all accounts I have read, it is drought-resistant, which has been my experience, as well.

A shade plant, Blue-stemmed Goldenrod is found in woodlands, shaded dune slopes, shaded bluffs, and sandy Black Oak savannas.  It’s not native to Kane County where I live; in the Midwest it is found in the far eastern counties of Illinois, throughout Indiana, and in most of lower Michigan.

What’s in bloom in your garden this week?


Saturday afternoon, I  “sat for a spell” in my savanna garden and saw:

1.  a Monarch butterfly–only the 3rd one I’ve seen all summer.

2. a Cloudless Sulfur–1st one this year–usually I am inundated with them in


3. a Hummingbird with a white breast–I just read that by fall male Hummingbirds have molted out their pretty red feathers and are identical to the female.  I generally do only see one hummingbird in the fall–migrating, I assume.

None of them lingered; they all hurried on through.

I need to spend more time in my garden just looking.

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