A Galaxy of Asters

Aster means “star”, which seems appropriate. They look like the heavenly stars that we see from an earthbound perspective. And so they are at their best when blooming in great masses, a Milky Way of asters.

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Short’s Aster

Thank goodness for Short’s Aster (Symphyotrichum shortii). Because this year it is the only Aster species blooming with star-like multitudes in our garden. The other asters are blooming, but they’re not blooming enough.

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Short’s Aster flowers are a light or lavender-blue, but the centers mature from bright yellow to purple.  It’s fairly shade tolerant plant.

One reason, I think, is that August and September this year have been too hot and too dry. This has caused a number of plants, not just Asters, to bloom early and briefly.

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All of the Asters are covered with bees. I think this is a Carpenter Bee. 

This may have impacted the New England Aster (S. novae-angliae), which usually has great masses of bloom.

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New England Aster

Usually New England Asters open like this: pop … pop … pop … KABOOM! This year it’s more like pop … pop … pop … pop-pop … sigh.

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Aromatic Aster

Aromatic Aster (S. oblongifolius) is another underperformer this year. Not sure why, since it’s supposed to like hot, dry weather.

In some cases I may have gone overboard with the cutting back in May/June. This is particularly the case with some Crooked-Stem Aster (S. prenanthoides by the back porch. I cut it back so hard that it just faded away. Maybe its feelings were hurt.

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Calico Aster

I used to have LOTS of Calico Aster (S. lateriflorum). In the Sidewalk Border it grew to the size of small shrubs, and it self-sowed, as they say, freely. So I tore it all out. The bees did love the tiny flowers, though.

Lately I’ve been tentatively allowing it to come back here and there. In the shady Back Garden, I’ve noticed, it is not nearly so rampant.

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White Woodland Aster, with Brunnera leaves. 

One Aster that is still on probation is White Woodland Aster (Eurybia divaritica). It really hasn’t started to spread much. It’s pleasant, but not exactly thrilling.

How have your Asters performed this year?

44 Comments on “A Galaxy of Asters

  1. No, my Asters simply disappear: The rabbits eat them. I really like Short’s Aster, Sky Blue Aster, and Aromatic Aster. Oh, and NE Asters with Goldenrods. It’s so weird that you had a hot, dry August/September, because we had a hot, rainy, humid August/September, and we’re not very far from you. The Asters are still blooming with abandon here; no frost yet.

  2. Mine are ok here in the UK, they seem to have enjoyed the long hot summer that we had. I have one that seeds around, I can’t remember the original name, and at this time of year I’m grateful that it pops up in lots of places.

  3. I love asters because they seem to be able to tough it out whatever the conditions (here in the UK mine don’t seem phased by weather extremes or heavy clay, for example). Plus they are so pretty and bring a smile to my face every time I see them 🙂👍🏼

  4. I have a wild aster out front that gets cut back and the roots disturbed when I pull weeds out from around it. It is doing ok. I had wondered if I pulled it out of the ground. The other asters in my garden are the domesticated variety and they are blooming alright just not fully as yet. I think time will bring them around…or at least I hope so.

  5. Our Asters are pale blue, a bit like your Shorts Asters. I have grown to appreciate Asters much more since reading your blog…they grow anywhere, don’t mind heat or frost, and flower for a long time, and now I can think of them as a galaxy of stars .. lovely😀

  6. I love “a Milky Way of Asters.” Haven’t seen too many this year, mostly because I have been at my desk editing my new book. Hope to get out next week with my camera. The stars of fall, that’s for sure.

  7. Beautiful! Our weather over the past month has been the total opposite of yours – wet and chilly. Some things have appreciated that, while others have languished.

  8. Some of my asters bloomed early, then pooped out. Others that I think I misidentified on my blog as ‘Purple Dome’ are going gangbusters: tall and purple and easily seen from the house. You get the prize as the most diverse aster collection, I think!

  9. Thanks for putting a name on what I think is in my front yard – Short’s Aster. I don’t have a lot of it but it looks delicate and lovely right now. I planted Heath, White Woodland and Crooked Stem last summer along with the Goldenrod and I think it’s the Heath that is blooming like crazy but I’ll have to go looking for the other two…

  10. Growing up we had woodland aster in the woods around our house. So pretty in the shade of the trees. We don’t have any in our garden currently, but they are a wonderful plant this time of year.

  11. Things still look pretty good there, even if you say it’s not up to the normal show.
    Mine are doing well enough this year, but the NE asters are way too tall and floppy. I guess I’ll be the one chopping them back too far next year.

    • Flopping is often a problem with the NE Asters. This year I cut back the outer stems but let the ones further back grow to their full height. But all of the required staking.

  12. I really enjoyed seeing all the asters in your garden! I’ve been thinking about planting some in my garden as it would be nice to still have some flowers there right now. Many of the asters are past their prime here too, but the Heart-leaved asters are still blooming away–and they were among the first to bloom too. That’s a really nice photo of Calico aster btw!! I find them difficult to photograph.

    • They are really hard to photograph, I agree. They are most attractive in a mass, but then its hard to get the individual flowers and especially those little purple centers

  13. I’ve found four species of aster in my area, but they don’t seem especially prolific this year. It may be a little early for them, and it may be that we’ve had too much rain for them.

    But as it happens, the aromatic aster, aka ‘fall aster’ down here, is going to be highlighted at our native plant society’s meeting next Monday as our plant of the month.

  14. Ha! How are mine performing? I don’t grow asters. They are uncommon here, and the few we grow go by other names. The wild asters are doing rather well, which is odd. I would think that they would be more variable than those in gardens because they are not cultivated for conformity like those in gardens are. I am not certain, but it seems to me that they do well when other plants that compete with them do not. However, they die back in autumn, as other plants dominate. Garden varieties of asters only recently started to become available, shortly after goldenrod showed up in nurseries. . . . Perhaps someday, we will get Joe Pye weed.

    • The asters I grow probably are not well-adapted to a CA climate. I’d bet there are some wild species that are native to parts of the state, though.

      • Yes, I think that the wild ones are more common than we give them credit for, both there and here, although some are known by different names.

  15. Hi Jason. I love your ‘Short’s’ asters. My asters have thrived in the hot dry summer, funnily enough. I always thought they needed lots of rain as well as the heat, but not the case this year. One of the mysteries of the galaxy….

  16. The Sky Blue Asters in my yard were sparse and short lived this year.

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