Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Stars

Asters flanking dwarf fountain grasses
Nothing accents a fall garden like asters.  Performing a supporting role all summer with crisp, green vegetation, asters move to center stage in autumn when most other perennials have stopped blooming.

My favorite fall aster is Aster oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite'.  It has the most beautiful blue-purple daisy-like flowers that start blooming in early October and continue for many weeks.

I have two patches of 'Raydon's Favorite' planted in my garden.  The original collection edges the perennial garden adjacent to the pool. Since I spend little time by the pool in the fall, I added another grouping of these beauties in the garden across from the front door.

'Raydon's Favorite' will grow to about 36 inches left alone.  However, I prune twice during the summer to get shorter, bushier plants that don't need staking.  I prune the plants by 1/2 at the end of May and then again by 1/3 at the end of June.  Don't prune past July 4th or you may not get blooms that year.

Blooming across from the front door
This aster cultivar divides easily in the spring.  This past spring I split the current grouping by the pool into many divisions and spread them out to fill an expanded perennial bed.  I mixed them with summer-blooming perennials and dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln').  The fountain grass is now blooming along side the asters.

A simple arrangement
I was told by some local gardeners that asters are generally plagued with powdery mildew.  Fortunately, 'Raydon's Favorite' has been mildew-proof in my garden.

With all the rain here lately, I brought a few sprigs of 'Raydon's Favorite' indoors to admire.  I mixed them with a few stems of River oat grass (Chasmanthium latifolium) and Sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Little Henry') in a small Victorian vase.  A simple autumn arrangement.

Asters get their name from an ancient Greek work that means stars. Very fitting, not only for their star-shaped flowers, but also for their starring role in my autumn garden.
Star-shaped beauties

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