This Week in my Garden

This week in my garden

new england aster 2014Asters are still the stars in the autumn garden–this is New England Aster-formerly known as Aster novae-angliae and is now Symphyotrichum novae-angliae.  The most colorful and best known of the species asters, its intense purple flowers bloom from early September until the end of October.  Growing 3-4’ tall, in the garden, it is likely to fall over.  Whacking it back by half at the end of June will cause it to branch out and become fuller and not quite so tall.  Adaptable, it grows in prairie, wetlands and ditches, and along roadsides and railroad tracks.

pink ne aster

Sometimes it has fuchsia flowers–this is self-seeded.

heath aster blog 2014

The tiny leafy, green linear foliage of Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is indeed heath-like.  Clusters of bright white, gold-centered, 1/4” daisies form plumes at the top of 1-3‘ stems in September and October.   In nature it is found in dry or mesic prairie.

trellis, smooth blue aster, fall 2014

Only growing 1-3’ in the prairie, the beautiful, blue blossoms of Smooth Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum leave) are over my head next to the entry trellis, a sunny south exposure.  Found in both prairie and woodland edges, It’s easy to identify by its stem-clasping leaves

Short’s Aster, a denison of savannas and woodlands, is an aggressive seeder; but when late August, September and October roll around, I’m thrilled to see all that blue in partly shady areas.


short's aster 2014

Plumes of lavender-blue  blossoms rise 2-4’ tall or more above elongated, heart-shaped leaves, lighting up dark corners in woodland and other shady places.

So what else besides asters is interesting?

prairie dropseed fall 2014

Grasses, of course.  Prairie or Northern Dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis) is beginning change color.

little bluestem fall 2014

Little Bluestem


silky rye 2014

Silky Rye (Elymus villosus) adds interest to woodlands and shady gardens.    Run your fingers up the stem through the brush at the top–it does, indeed, feel silky.

culver's root 2013

The tall- 2’-6’- candelabras of Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)  contrast with the bushy New England Aster.  It grows in sun or part shade, in bloom in July and August.

wild quinine fall 2014 Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) begins to bloom in June and continues all summer. Even in October, its flat top flower heads at the top of 2-3’ stems are a handsome addition to a prairie garden.

grasshopper 2014

Mr. Grasshopper on the Purple Coneflower button seedpods.  Spent plumes of Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) on the left.  Showy Goldenrod blooms in September.

redbud pods 2014

The seedpods of Redbud  (Cercis canadenses) fringe its branches, adding fall and winter interest.

blue cohosh berries 2014

The berries of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) are ”an iridescent blue which beggars all description,” say Swink & Wilhelm in Plants of the Chicago Region.  A woodland plant,  it is frequently found on northeastern-facing slopes.  Its compound scalloped leaves form a loosely layered 1-2’ clump.  Its spring flowers are insignificant.



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14 Responses to This Week in my Garden

  1. CHRIS DARBO October 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Oh, Pat, I’m so jealous! I’ve had my Caulophyllum thalictroides for several years now, and once again, no pretty blue berries. I check frequently. Is a hungry critter beating me to them?

    • Pat Hill October 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Among vertebrate animals, both the White-Footed Mouse and Woodland Deer Mouse feed on the berry-like seeds of Blue Cohosh (Hamilton, 1941). However, because of the bright blue coloration of the fleshy seed coats and their carbohydrates, woodland birds are probably the primary dispersal agents of the seeds, which are known to be toxic to humans. Because the bitter-tasting foliage of this wildflower contains toxic glycosides and alkaloids, it is rarely eaten by White-Tailed Deer and other mammalian herbivores.

      Found this in Illinois Woodland Wildflowers, Chris.

  2. Medina Gross October 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Magnificent pictures, as usual!

  3. Hi Pat October 6, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    Hi Pat,
    I saw black cohosh at Hawthorne Hill Nature Center and we have had a little here, not BLue Cohosh. Most of our asters did not survive the winter, even with a thick layer of dead leaves on top. But we had great feverfew still blooming, and our leadwort is a beautiful intense blue color. Nuthatches and chickadees love the seeds on the echinacea and daisies. All the seasons are beautiful! Sandy Kaptain

  4. Aurelia October 6, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    Hi Pat,

    What grass(es) or other perennial(s) would you recommend planting interspersed with the New England aster in a large swath so that it is less likely to fall over? Also, are there any particular carices or grasses you’d recommend for planting interspersed in a large mass of Penstemon digitalis? It has such beautiful dark green leaves that would play off so nicely against a light bright green lush texture.

    Thanks for your post!

    • Pat Hill October 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m only recommending Short Grasses, such as Little Bluestem and Prairie Dropseed because of the Tall Grasses’ aggressiveness

  5. Mary Alice Masonick October 6, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    I love all the fall asters in bloom now! Showy Goldenrod is still blooming in my yard and the bumblebees adore it!

    • Pat Hill October 6, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

      I have Blue-stemmed Goldenrod still in bloom–I should have included a picture of that as well. But my show goldenrod has been gone for awhile.

  6. Jason October 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    I love asters, and we have some of the same species, particularly the New England and Short’s Aster.

  7. Jody Stepnowski October 7, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    the bits of aster plants you let me glean from your yard have taken off like gangbusters, spreading hither and thither in a lovely mass of color!

  8. Barbara Arko Hargrove October 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Thank you for your wonderful suggestions for fall foliage for native species. This is my first newsletter from you and I so enjoyed your talk last month. Looking forward to the next one!

  9. Ginger Duncan October 10, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Beautiful pictures, Pat & thanks for the info about cutting the asters down by half after June to get them to spread. I was in Wi. over the weekend & saw the most beautiful pots of blue asters, but the place was closed on Sun. I have a question, would you happen to know the type of plant that has little tiny burrs on them at the end of the season? It seems like all I have to do is go any where near them & the flock to my hair & clothes. Last time it happened, I didn’t have socks on & they ended up stuck on the inside of my sneakers, don’t think that wasn’t irritating.

    • Pat Hill October 10, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

      There are several plants that do that in the fall. I have a jacket I’ve been working on for quite some time.

  10. Plant Nursery Ninfield January 21, 2016 at 2:08 am #

    Lovely garden Pat. Thank you for your wonderful suggestions on gardening.Fuchsia looks pretty. One can visit for more variety of plants. Looking forward to more post by you.

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