Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fallen Stars of Autumn

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

Autumn stars have fallen to earth - as asters! October brings us a treasure trove of brilliant daisy-like flowers in a rainbow of colors. Smashing paired with grasses and evergreen shrubs, asters can be found from shade to sun. I love them for their late season color, but also because they are a last feeding stop for pollinators.

Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum)

We are blessed with a large variety of native asters in Illinois as well as a huge selection of cultivars on the market. The native asters can be quite rambunctious. I find that if you pinch them back in July, they will be much more bushy in habit and bloom later for an extended season.

'October Skies' aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'October Skies')

I do have a soft spot for one cultivar of aster -'October Skies'. This stunning large rounded plant features quarter-sized soft blue flowers with golden centers. I like to run my hands over the foliage as it is particularly fragrant. As with any aster, it is beloved by bees.

There are tall asters like Drummond's (Symphyotrichum drummondii) which can grow deep in the woods. There are tiny asters like heath aster 'Snow Flurry' (Symphyotrichum ericoides 'Snow Flurry') which is a groundcover that forms a soft wave of tiny white blossoms on needle-like foliage. There are robust plants like New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) that resemble a shrub. With so many to chose from, they are easy to add to a perennial border or native landscape. The bees and migrating butterflies will thank you!