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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A good year for asters

The other day, our wonderful gardening neighbor was lamenting the fact that her asters have done nothing this year (probably because everything else has grown so rampantly in this year's rain that the poor things are shaded out--or perhaps they've drowned, as she has actual soil and actually waters her plantings). Looking across the street at our rampaging aromatic aster
(Aster oblongifolius, for some reason now renamed Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, a moniker unlikely ever to come into common use), she sighed and noted that our asters have had a good year. And they have.
In truth, our shale barren natives have been so happy that I've had to divide and keep moving the clumps to keep them from choking out everything in their path; they actually out-compete catmint and sedum, though I am hopeful that this young planting of aster, switchgrass, feather grass, and mixed agastache will simply make a nicely interwoven patch of pollinator delights when it matures.
All the asters have been happy this year, though they are not a well-behaved group of plants. My beloved "Wild Romance" vanished from the backyard meadow, overrun by by oblongifolium unaware that it is supposed to get no more than knee-high, but volunteered in front of a "Purple Dome" in the driveway bed.
"Wild Romance" is too tall for the spot, but its pink harmonizes nicely with the dark purples and blues of that area. It may have to stay.
Asters can, indeed, be thugs, but lovely ones. Common New England aster volunteers with abandon in various places (generally doing better than in the places I wanted it to grow), like this specimen that decided that it was a better choice than hummingbird mint and purple coneflower to set off a large "Fireworks" goldenrod. (It was probably right.)
Out back, NE aster has interwoven itself with other meadow and prairie plants native to our area, creating the kind of pollinator-friendly jumble that keeps us and our cats well-entertained as we sit on the back porch.

I've been unable (read: too lazy) to do a positive ID on the small-flowered white asters that pop up everywhere here, but we seem to have at least two species, one that wanders low to the ground and tolerates even the dry shade under our maples, and one that wants to be a shrub and made an unexpected snowbank in front of the physocarpus.
We could buy a "Snowbank" boltonia, but why bother? It's been a good year for asters on Chipmunk Ridge.

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