With the snow falling and the temperatures barely reaching 35, I am already reminiscing about my garden this fall, and looking forward to spring flowers. And one of the flowers I miss are my asters. OK, yes, they are no longer called asters. Instead it is now proper to call them Symphyotrichum. Really?! I don’t want to write this each time I refer to these flowers, and pronouncing it will be an adventure, so I am still calling them asters.
With so many asters, which is my favorite? New England Aster definitely! Called Symphyotrichum novae-angliae and sometimes referred to as Michaelmas Daisy these asters bring me so much delight. And they are part of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).
What’s not to love about these plants. First they have dozens of gorgeous purple, pink or even white flowers on one plant. And while the flowers have no scent, the leaves are spicy scented when crushed.
And I am also joining forces with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to purchase native plants like this one for my garden. The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.
New England asters grow in sun to part shade in a wide variety of soil types; from average, well-drained soil to moist, rich soils, even clay. The most important thing is they need good air circulation to reduce powdery mildew. If the soil dries out or the weather is exceedingly hot, the lower leaves may turn brown and die before it flowers. But no need to worry.
These zone 4 to 8 plants will grow from 3 to 6 feet tall needing a bit of staking or plants in front of them for support. Pinching back the stems several times before mid-July will help keep the plant’s height to 3 feet and little need for staking.
Asters grow easily from seed and may self-seed in the right growing conditions. If you cut plants to the ground after flowering, you can prevent them from self-seeding or spreading aggressively. I have never seen my asters growing aggressively.
To propagate New England asters, they need to be seeded outside in fall. You can also propagate by taking cuttings or divisions in late spring. Dividing these plants every several years can help the plant grow more vigorously.
Benefits to Wildlife
Of course bees and other pollinators love this flower and swarm all over it.
The flowers are visited primarily by bumblebees, honeybees, Miner bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, bee flies, and skippers.
The seeds and leaves of this plant are sometimes eaten by Wild Turkey, and the leaves can be browsed by deer and rabbits although I have not noticed this in my garden. Of course deer could be the main reason why many are missing in my meadow.
Where Are They Found
New England asters are native to most of Eastern North America except the far north of Canada as well as some of the southern United States appearing naturally in open fields and along roadsides. I love seeing the purple flowers fill the roadsides around here in fall. It can also be found in moist open woods, meadows, prairies and along stream banks.
They were introduced to Europe in 1710 and have since naturalized along roadsides.
These asters are wonderful in any garden especially a native plant, cottage, butterfly or wildlife garden.
They will naturalize in meadows and rain gardens.
Folklore and Tales
Native American Tribes used this aster to heal such ailments as pain, fever, skin rashes, earache and stomach issues.
The name aster comes from the Latin and Greek words for star.
It was used to drive away snakes in ancient Greece. And in Germany and France asters were burned to keep away evil spirits.
Shakers used the plant to help clear skin complexions and as an antidote for snake bites.
In the Language of Flowers, aster symbolizes patience, love of variety, elegance and daintiness.
Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity. ~John Ruskin
Do you have asters growing in your garden? Do you have a favorite variety?
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Next up on the blog:
Saturday brings the next Seasonal Celebrations post. Monday I will have another Garden Journal report as I look over November’s garden. And next Wednesday brings another Wildlife story.
I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her new blog just for Nature Notes. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday.