Thursday, October 03, 2013

Shoulder to Shoulder, The Asters Begin to Take Center Stage

It's October and the asters are coming into their full glory.

In my garden, aromatic aster is the biggest player.  Bigleaf aster is actually about bloomed out.  The short, pink, 'Dream of Beauty' aromatic aster is already completely done.  However, the heath asters, both in the gardens and in the prairie, are in full bloom now.  One seedling aromatic aster has come into full bloom too...

...and there are sporadic single blossoms on the other aromatic asters throughout the garden.  One of these sporadic blossoms, next to a heath aster in full bloom, gave me an interesting photo opportunity to show off the contrast between the different sizes and textures of the blooms found on these two, wonderful, native species.

The single purple bloom is, of course, the beginning salvo in the barrage of blooms about to break forth on this aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius).  All of those little, light green balls will be purple blooms in a week or so.  The mass of small white flowers at the bottom of the photo is the top portion of the heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides), which is in full bloom right now.  

By now, at least among gardeners who enjoy and use native plants, aromatic aster has a well deserved reputation for hardiness and a beautiful, bountiful display in the fall garden.  It serves as a leafy green filler for most of the summer.  Heath aster, though, has escaped most people's notice.  Rather than lush or beautiful, its foliage is "interesting" and consists of tiny, dark green leaves that stay close to the wiry stems of the plant.  In late September, the branches become covered with small, white, daisy-like flowers which, like most asters, are beloved by pollinators.

I have a lot of heath aster in the Back 5 Acres.  I used to dismiss it as rather boring and "weedy."  Two years ago, though, I noticed that the masses of heath aster gave a lacy effect to the fall grassland, which was otherwise looking rather sparse due to severe heat and drought.

After seeing the pleasant effect of the heath aster in the Back 5, and after loving the trailing effect of Snow Flurry heath aster in my front garden,...

 ...I think I'm purposely going to add a little more heath aster into my main flower beds.  It could make a nice texture contrast, both during the time it's mainly a finely textured, green "bush" and later when it's loaded with tiny, white blooms.

Speaking of asters and their gorgeous bloom displays in the fall, it's fascinating to go back through my old photos and note overlapping bloom periods.  Each year is a little different. This year almost all of the goldenrod is already finished, including the Wichita Mountains goldenrod, while the peak of the aromatic asters is still a week or more away.   Two years ago, I took this photo of aromatic asters and Wichita Mountain goldenrod blooming together on October 16th....

This year the goldenrod will be brown by the time the adjacent asters bloom.

I guess it's all part of the challenge of gardening - you do your best to plan bloom sequences and arrangements, but the plants are living creatures and will do what they need to do to survive.  Each year the weather throws in a curve ball or two or three, too. Thankfully, the changes are for the better almost as often as they are not.  Meanwhile, I never seem to tire of the ever-evolving display of beauty just outside the doors of my prairie home.


tina said...

It is ever so interesting to go back and look at our old photos. Eye opening too. A nice combo!

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

My asters are not blooming yet. I think something is a miss. Odd, the heath asters I moved into a flower bed have been nibbled down by our resident bunny all summer. The ones still in the lawn are blooming.