Supernova: an Explosion of Asters

The name Aster comes from the Greek word for star. At this time of year, it feels like the Asters are exploding into a sort of floral supernova.

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Aromatic Aster with Bluestem Goldenrod

There are three particular asters that I love at this time in the season. I am a bit of an asterphile; I get excited about distinctions that most people might consider minor in the extreme. This is why I no longer make fun of people who get worked up over Snowdrops.

Anyway, the first of my favorites is Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium).

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Aromatic Aster with Bluestem Goldenrod in the Lamppost Bed.

Aromatic Aster stands out because it is relatively compact, and also because the flowers are fuller and a darker shade of blue than you often find in this genus. I grow the straight species, but there are a couple of nice cultivars available commercially.

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New England Aster blooming in the Front Island Bed, with Mexican Sunflower in the background.

A second favorite is New England Aster (S. novae-angiae). This is probably the most common aster found in garden centers, with hundreds of cultivars. The straight species usually has purple flowers, but I sometimes find pink or blue blooms on the same plant.

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Bees and other pollinators love New England Asters.

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The thing that’s a bit annoying about straight species New England Aster is their height and tendency to flop in the garden. I cut most of mine back by 2/3 in late May and they still tend to flop. They’re in full sun so I think the problem is easy living – rich soil and plenty of moisture. I would cut them back a second time but I don’t want to delay the flowers by too much.

Nevertheless, the abundant, richly-colored blooms make up for the time spent staking.

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Short’s Aster in the Left Bank Bed.

Short’s Aster (S. shortii) is a third favorite. This is an extremely low-maintenance plant with profuse, soft blue flowers. You can cut it back if you like, but that is all the attention that this plant needs.

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Short’s Aster with Bluestem Goldenrod

This Aster is rarely found in garden centers, but is available from native plant specialists. It tends to have a dense, bushy habit.

Are you enjoying any Asters these days?

55 Comments on “Supernova: an Explosion of Asters

  1. Hah! So why did I not realize Aster means Star? Thank you for that little bit of learning, Jason. And asters are so welcome at this time of year. Yours are lovely.

  2. Beautiful! I’m not as crazy about the New England Asters–just a bit too purple for me. (Although they have their place–especially in nature.) But the others are favorites! And the pollinators love them, too. 🙂

    • I was just thinking that perhaps it was time to replace the New England Asters. I’m happy with the color but it’s the floppiness that drives me crazy.

  3. Lovely! Especially that last one. It’s a nice soft blue. My pink one (A. novae angliae Alma Pötschke) is flowering now and I also have some really pretty pale blue ones, the name of which has long been forgotten!

  4. Yes, I am mad on them too.’ Little Carlow’ is my current favourite. It has violet blue flowers. Have you noticed how the yellow centres turn red once pollinated?

    • I’m not familiar with ‘Little Carlow’, sounds worth checking out. I haven’t noticed that about the centers changing color.

  5. I don’t have many Asters because they need watering in summer, my favourite though is A. ‘Monte Cassino’ which has tiny white flowers, I have it in the cut flower beds and would be happy for it to spread a bit.

  6. My asters haven’t quite exploded. It is raining this morning so hopefully they will be encouraged to open. Your asters look very pretty. I don’t remember what cultivars I have.

  7. All of the wild bits of my place are hosting an exuberant aster and goldenrod party right now. My bee hive looks like an oasis in a sea of wild asters, to the bees’ delight. So, it makes me laugh to think of planting the little lovelies. But, I do need to learn to identify all the different varieties, so thanks for inspiring me to do so.

  8. Love those little stars of autumn. They look especially lovely when paired with yellow flowers, as you have done in your gardens.

  9. We’ve got some about to flower – I think they’ll be pink. I can’t remember what variety they are… And there’s a purple one that’s popped up from nowhere. Yours are lovely.

  10. Like you, I have a profusion of purple and gold right now. Purple New England asters which are covered withs bees and butterflies and goldenrods. Nice combination. I have you to thank for writing about Shorts aster earlier. I found a plant at a local nursery devoted to native plants. It’s compact and such a pretty light blue.

  11. Just lovely – I’m hoping to incorporate more blue flowers into the garden and this one is going on the list, although I’m not a fan of a lot of maintenance so I guess I’ll be searching out the Short’s Aster.

  12. Asters are abundant in my part of the world, Quebec’s Eastern Townships — not in gardens or cultivated spaces as much as in the fields, along road verges and the borders of ditches. Occasionally they are deep purple, more often a paler tone. I like both colours very much. And yes, goldenrod is everywhere now, too.

  13. We have soft blue asters that grow well in empty spots in the garden in summer, I really like them as they are so low maintenance, cope with extremes of weather, look cheerful all summer long and bring the bees! However, I had no idea there were so many varieties, so I’ll look out for others. (they look very pretty with the Bluestem Goldenrod)

  14. I have several asters, some of which the rabbits LOVE (talking to you, smooth aster). There are two New England types, one tall and FULL of pollinators, two shorter (‘Purple Dome’?) with nary a pollinator to be found. Hmm. I also have a pink one, ‘Wild Romance’. Today I noticed a volunteer white aster. I would not be sad if they all proliferated.

  15. Yes, I am Jason! I have New Belgian (novi-belgii) asters and annual asters in bloom right now. Nice shots, especially a bee on New England Asters.

  16. I have one native aster but am on the verge of ordering some with a little color. My garden could use a bit of a boost at this season, especially with all my toad lillies being munched by the bunnies.

  17. Oh what is wrong with me ? I’m afraid they leave me cold. Asters and Astrantias and geums just don’t do it for me. I will try harder. I always think of mildew and decay. Hopefully your informative post will work its magic on me …

    • Astrantias and Geums don’t mean much to me, but I couldn’t garden without my asters. But then, it’s all a matter of personal taste.

  18. They are gorgeous, and the mix with goldenrod is especially nice. I have a deep purple aster I planted with some goldenrod in a garden that’s too far away from the house –this year something ate all the asters. But I also have a magenta variety (probably New England? Lord knows they’re leggy and floppy!) near the house. I love the butterflies and bumblebees that cover the asters. That’s a wonderful close-up photo of the bumblebee on yours!

    • Rabbits have a nasty habit of chewing on the asters. It’s wonderful how the asters and goldenrods are buzzing with bees this time of year.

  19. Love your aster + goldenrod combo, Jason.

    I have a nice swath of aromatic aster ‘October Skies’ which has given me some volunteer plants that are now blooming here and there throughout my patio bed.

    I’m also loving a new garden addition, the shade-loving aster Symphyotrichum cordifolium (http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Symphyotrichum%20cordifolium.png). I think you’d like that one as well, although it’s a *very* pale lavender (almost white).

    I tried growing New England aster, but it looked like death warmed over with our heat and humidity, so I ripped it out. Well, I *thought* I ripped it out. One came back and is looking quite nice actually, so I’m letting it live (for now) 😉

  20. I add a few Asters every year about this time, when I realize that they are the one reliable late performer, and so easy.

  21. Asters are wonderful. I’ve got a few New England Asters, but I am trying to expand the range. I’ve been looking towards the small flowered varieties, like ‘Lady in Black’. Your combinations with goldenrod and coneflowers work so well.

    • i think ‘Lady in Black’ is S. lateriflorus. I have the straight species, which has its charms, but the cultivar is probably a better garden plant.

  22. Your asters look spectacular next to golden rod. Clearly they love your soil, perhaps you could stake them from May after the Chelsea chop?

  23. How lovely the asters and goldenrod look together. You do have some lovely varieties. I did enjoy that black and white bee too, how cute.xxx

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