Friday, August 24, 2007

Asters

Even in the kindest of summers, my garden starts to look tired by late August. The daylily blooms are long since spent, the coneflowers have gone to seed, the shasta daisies are done, and even the fiery lantana flowers are falling off. When that happens, it's good to have some asters.

Throughout the early summer, asters devote their energy to growing. (And to providing food for rabbits.) When the other blooms are ready to pack it in, though, the asters are just hitting their stride. I bought these two winters ago off the half-price table at the nursery, not realizing how vigorously they grow. They've been divided at least twice since then; once to provide late summer color for a front bed, and a second time because they were again just too freakin' big. I took clumps of asters and a shovel to the back borders and started planting them everywhere I could find room.

The aster is sort of like the girl who grew up in a houseful of brothers; pretty AND tough enough to hold her own in a playground scuffle...or a killer drought. (Sort of like my sisters, Sam and Marie. I wouldn't tangle with either one of them now!) I'm thinking of writing a post evaluating how different plants have held up during the hottest, driest summer on record, and the asters are getting five stars (or maybe five suns).

Plus, the butterflies love them. This afternoon there were millions of little yellow butterflies fluttering around the blooms. (Okay, not "millions," but probably three dozen at least.) There was also this one tiny bee--check out all the pollen on his legs!

They tend to flop; it helps to cut them back in early to mid summer, but I forgot to do that this year.

6 comments:

Catherine said...

I like your comparison of Asters to girls who grew up in a houseful of brothers!! ;) Nice photo of the bee~ his legs are covered in pollen!

Connie said...

Lovely photo of the aster and the bee! I bought a gal. size one last fall for 1.00 at a nursery close-out. I am embarrassed to say I still have it in that pot a year later, as I haven't decided where to plant it! You've given me some food for thought in that decision. :-)

Wrenna said...

I sprinkled a packet of Aster seeds in some unenriched soil in the spring and have yet to water them once and they look gorgeous. Mine aren't even lying down except where the dog trampled them. And that isn't their fault.
I just bought a gallon size on clearance and I'm confused. Are they annuals or perennials? Whatever they are they get an A+ from me.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Thanks Catherine. I figured I could score a couple of points with my sisters by calling them "pretty." Now they'll be looking over their shoulders wondering what I'm up to.

Give it lots of room, Connie!

Wrenna, I think some asters are annuals, although I've never grown anything but these perennials, which are usually called "Hardy Asters" or "New England Asters."

Mary said...

You're giving me some ideas for planting next year. My gardens are young and I'm still trying to fill them up. Now is not the time, however. It's still scorching hot. Good pics!

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Mary--If you want ideas for plants that don't need babying, talk to me. I have neither the time nor patience for high-maintenance plants. Everything in my garden could pretty much survive on its own if I went away for a month. (Don't tell anybody though--I like to perpetuate the illusion that I'm an expert gardener. The truth is that my plants make me look smarter than I am.)