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.
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).
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.
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.
Bees and other pollinators love New England Asters.
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.
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.
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?