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.