Return to the Garden: Asters Save the Day

On Saturday we flew back to Chicago from Japan. It was a 12 hour flight, during which I did not sleep at all. Nevertheless, I was fairly alert on the drive home from the airport, focused mainly on what we would find upon returning to the garden. My anxiety gradually rose as I took in the effects of Chicago’s record September heat wave and the abnormally dry conditions.

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Upon actually seeing the garden, though, the first thing that struck me was the veritable galaxy of light blue Short’s Aster (Symphyotrichum shortii) flowers in the Sidewalk Border.

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Clearly all was not lost.

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Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) was also blooming, providing a nice contrast to the Asters.

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However, most of the tiny Goldenrod flowers had already started to fade.

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A buzzing multitude of bees were all over the Aster blooms.

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New England Asters (S. novae-angliae), lanky and leaning even after being cut back in June, were blooming in the Front Island Bed.

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They looked down on the Short’s Asters and Brown-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia triloba) which were settled in toward the middle of the bed.

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Rudbeckias (mainly R. triloba and R. fulgida) were still blooming in the Parkway Bed and elsewhere, but they looked rather droopy due to the hot, dry weather.

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I was actually surprised that the Helenium autumnale ‘Mardi Gras’ is holding up as well as it is. Here it’s combined with a mix of Short’s Aster and Aromatic Aster (S. oblongifolius). Aromatic Aster flowers tend to be a shade darker and a little fuller than Short’s Aster – and it tends to be shorter, also.

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I was really pleased that the Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) were holding up pretty well. They actually like the heat, of course.

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I had cut them back moderately before leaving, which turns out to have been a good idea.

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After sleeping 12 hours on Saturday night, I set about deadheading and otherwise grooming the Mexican Sunflowers on Sunday, an activity I always find satisfying. I saw a couple of Monarchs and American Lady butterflies but didn’t get any pictures.

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Actually, I had all kinds of ideas about how much work I would get done in the garden my first day back. However, it wasn’t long before my ambitions started a hasty retreat. In the end, I got all the bird feeders and baths filled and got our little fountain going again, and that was all. I think it will take me a while to get over the jet lag.

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Let’s see, what else? Well, the Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) was blooming nicely if a bit sparsely.

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The grasses were looking pretty good, especially the Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).

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All in all, it was good to be back in the garden, despite the unexpected heat and dryness.

That’s all for now.

54 Comments on “Return to the Garden: Asters Save the Day

    • First night we got back we slept for 12 hours. Right now we’re going through a phase where we want to go to bed really early but then wake up at 2 am.

  1. I have to go back and get caught up with your trip posts, sigh, but your garden looks great despite the heat and dryness. You can use the heat as an excuse for lack of energy when you run out of jet lag!

  2. Asters and Goldenrods, a perfect combination! Take your time deadheading, it taks a long time to get over jet lag! Your garden looks amazing considering the heat you have been having, plants are wonderful, coping with whatever is thrown at them.

  3. Your garden looks great despite the heat… The asters are such reliable plants, and I remember your Northern Sea Oats from last year… Enjoy your garden … There is surely no better welcome home than a potter around the garden..

  4. I wouldn’t worry about not going full-speed in the garden – it all looks amazing considering you’ve been away for almost two weeks and it’s been so hot. Hope you had a wonderful trip and feel back to normal soon.

    • Getting back to normal seems to be a gradual process. If I ever end up on another 12 hour flight, I think I’ll try to get some sleeping medication.

  5. Everything looks really quite good. I am a “wilter” in the super heat (ok, any heat) but am surprised that many plants do much better, well and maybe I overwater, and us in clay soil! Good to have you back.

  6. Given the tremendous heat and dryness we are experiencing your garden looks terrific. I’ve been watering my garden while you were away and my garden doesn’t look half as lush.

  7. Welcome back. Your garden looks great~Love the ex-asters and Goldenrod combinations. This may be my favorite time in a garden.

  8. The asters are a lovely sight to welcome you home! I also really like your Northern Sea Oats and Rudbeckia combination shown in your last photo. We have had a lot of high heat and humidity, but cooler, drier air will arrive in a few days. I am looking forward to being able to enjoy gardening again.

  9. I also had a 12 hours flight back to Germany and couldn’t sleep. Fortunately my son was able to drive home the car. During our stay in Japan it became cool and rainy here. It was about 11 pm when we finally landed in Nuremberg, outside temperature about 10°C. My son, still in shorts and t-shirt, started to freeze during the walk to our car. When we arrived there, he said: “Ok, Mom, now I’m awake, I can drive.” 🙂
    By the way, Jason, have you also been in Asakusa on Wed, Sept 6? We were there in the morning, but after we had lunch it started to rain. Then we left Asakusa and went to the Edo-Tokyo-Museum. Have you also seen it?

    • I think it may have been the 6th! We started that day at Hama-Rikyu garden then took the water taxi to Asakusa. So perhaps we were arriving just as you left!

  10. We’ve had record breaking heat here too, but the asters are doing well. They are loaded with bees this year too; more than I’ve ever seen.
    I’m glad your garden survived. Sometimes they can surprise us and thrive on neglect.

  11. Yup, we’ve had the heat and dryness here as well – things are not doing too badly considering but I am having to do a lot of watering on the transplanted trees and a few perennials I planted in the border a few weeks ago. I have a feeling that those gardens where the soil vs the plants are “fed” with amendments and compost are fairing much better than those where Miracle Grow is the norm. And the photo of the Tithonia blossom is simply perfect.

  12. Glad you found your garden still blooming…it looks great! We’ve been having record heat here, too, but now might get a frost in a couple days.

  13. Welcome back. Nice that the garden is in much better shape than you expected. Coming home should be full of fun discoveries, not sad prune and bag activities. The sea oats look great with the rudbeckia!

  14. I’m glad you’re at home Jason. Your New England Asters look very pretty, I wait for mines in bloom. I think the grasses are nice despite of your absence.
    I liked your Japanese pictures and wait for continuation.

  15. What a nice welcome home from your garden! I really really want to go to Japan now! Such great photographs : )

  16. I am surprised that my I think New England asters are blooming, they are usually later. Maybe it’s because they’re close to the bird baths and get a little more water. Beautiful post.

  17. It held up very well! I figured it would–those native plants can withstand some drought. Of course, the bloom time isn’t as long, but they sure look great in your garden now!

  18. Wow, your plants look great considering you’ve had a drought. We’ve had a drought here as well. Everyone around us got rain but we went about a month without any. I’m worn with watering. Hope you got the anticipated rain on Wednesday.

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