Sunday, September 18, 2016
New England Aster Color Change
New England aster is without question a wild flower. It is described as a native plant in many places and we prefer to think of it that way. Somehow working with a native plant carries with it a hint of magic. This treasure grows along side of the roads here in great number. That common occurrence and possible characterization as a weed in some people's minds does not diminish this plant in our eyes. We have it throughout our gardens. Some of it we planted and some is self sown. This first picture features our compost pile. Two asters were in the way during spring planting and they were placed on the compost pile until we could find them a proper home. They have been joined be a self sown pumpkin. Wind toppled the asters but they care not. This mass of purple flowers is beautiful.
In general, the asters serve as a fall food source for many insects. This bee like bug is new to us and we do not know its name. For most of the day clusters of aster flowers are densely covered with foragers.
We also do not know the name of this insect. Most impressive is the size of its pollen load.
This combination of purple asters and yellow goldenrod just happened in a neglected corner of the garden. We have a spot down by the road that could profit from a similar planting. Now grass clippings are in place there to discourage the quack grass. Its white underground runners will be removed before the asters are planted. Wild occurrences of asters frequently feature plants with but a single stalk. They seem unable to hold the upper hand in competition with other invasive plants. When the asters are well established and the quack grass appears to be gone, we will add goldenrod to the planting. Left untended, the goldenrod will displace the asters but we intend to meddle to help the asters hold space.
Over the years we have frequently seen pink asters growing alongside of the road. We have resisted the temptation to steal with great difficulty. Two years ago a single stem on a small plant produced pink flowers in a garden bed. Marked and tended, the plant grew in size. This spring six divisions were taken. Three were planted down by the road and two were planted in a bed near the house. A wire cage kept the deer from eating here but was recently removed so that the flowers could be enjoyed by us in a more natural presentation. It may be that the deer feed on asters only early in the year. Pruned plants still flower as do the roadside plants that are mowed down by the highway crew. Garden specimens would benefit from from intentional cutting back. Left alone, they approach four feet in height and the lower leaves blacken. One of these years we will give some of these gorgeous plants the attention that they deserve. This year even with our dry conditions, they look pretty great!