Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Yesterday, in the afternoon before the showers, it was warm and humid with the sun showing through on occasion. It seemed as if all the insect world knew that soon cool weather would be here and the days of plenty would be past. So all were busy loading up as if it were their last chance.

Wasps, caterpillars, skippers,solitary native bees and even a few honey bees covered the many flowers. It seems New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) has done well in the heat and plentiful rain of this years late summer. Tall plants full of small flowers whose purple rays fan out to surround a delectable creamy yellow center. Come one, come all there is plenty for everyone.

All this abundance started with a single seedhead winter sown three years ago as an experiment. Wanting to start with plants known to grow easily from seed I could then judge any failure or success on the method itself. Asters can adapt to fluctuations in rain and soil nutrients by staying small to conserve or growing enormous when circumstance is in favor.

Most years,like the yellow coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata) that bloom earlier, aster is kept low and caused to branch out by foraging rabbits. Preferring the young tender shoots, as the summer wears on the rabbits move to other tastier tidbits. This always leaves plenty of time for the aster to grow tall enough to produce an abundance of flower and seed. After the fall insect frenzy finches and sparrows like to dine on the seeds. So overall this New England Aster supplies an amazing amount of food to a diverse crowd in the wildlife habitat.


Blogger Carol said...

I do enjoy the asters in the fall. Mine have yet to bloom, stunted by a dry, hot summer, no doubt. Hopefully, a few will bloom by the 15th for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

11/9/07 7:44 PM  
Blogger firefly said...

Beautiful photos, Gloria. I love the bee with the pollen-loaded legs!

I planted an Aster laevis seedling this year that is just about to bloom. Can't wait to see the flowers!

Different types of asters also grow by the roadside here and bloom well into October, and I'm planning to collect some of the seedheads.

14/9/07 2:14 PM  
Blogger Dirty Knees said...

Aaah, asters! Yes, they are beautiful! Are New York asters the same as New England asters, aka Michaelmas daisies? They appear to be in your photos.

My Michaelmas daisies are nearly in bloom but already they have been adorning the roadsides for a week or more here in Central Ontario.

15/9/07 8:58 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Carol,we had so much rain in August I was begining to worry about the asters. But they are doing well and so full of blooms.Yours will bloom soon if you are getting the same 40 degree nights that Chicago is experiencing this past week.

Firefly, that is a good way to get seed. Aster is never in danger of low seed production even in a bad year.
I would like to get a woodland aster in white. The one growing at the Lurie garden is only a couple of feet tall and very attractive for some shade.

Hi there Dirty knees,
I think New York and New England are very similar but different varieties of aster.

17/9/07 1:27 AM  
Blogger Beo said...

N.E. Aster has become on of my all tie favorite fall pollinator attractants. It is one of the few plants (other than the clover in the lawn and compost beds) that consistently attracts honeybees which could use the help this year.

Mine typically get typically have sever foliage die back on the bottom 2/3 of their stalks-any pointers? I have begun to expect this as normal and am planting little bluestem and butterfly weed in front of mine to mask it, but would like to know if there is another way.

Great blog-love the info!

22/9/07 7:58 AM  

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