Stars of the Late Show

By Cohoon, Sharon | Sunset, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Stars of the Late Show


Cohoon, Sharon, Sunset


GARDEN

Easy-to-grow asters belong in the autumn garden

When most other perennials stop blooming, asters are just getting started. These hardy perennials are the backbone of the late show, says Gary Ratway, co-owner of Digging Dog Nursery in Albion, California.

"Most of the year asters are just a promise, just a nice clump of green foliage," he says. "But then, finally, late in the season, when you're craving another jolt of color, out they come with these great clouds of flowers."

Those clouds, appropriately enough, are often blue. But asters also come in a full range of reds and pinks, plus white.

And asters attract winged guests: Monarchs and other butterflies love the flowers. Bees like them too.

Autumn is the time to go nursery shopping for asters in bloom. Where winters are frost-free, you can plant any time as long as the soil isn't soggy. In cold-winter climates, get plants into the ground no later than mid-October or wait until next spring.

Best asters for the West

A. cordifolius. Violet blue flower clusters resembling baby's breath are borne on stems 4 to 6 feet tall. Great in bouquets. Sunset climate zones 1-10, 14-21 from the Western Garden Book.

A. x frikartii. One of the earliest-- flowering asters, it's also one of the latest bloomers. The variety 'Monch' bears 2 1/2-inch-wide lavender blue flowers on a 2- to 3-foot-tall plant; 'Jungfrau' and `Wonder of Staffa' are similar. Plant looks best when stems are staked or grown in a hoop. Zones 2B-24.

A. novae-angliae hybrids. Very upright (3 to 5 feet tall), this stout-- stemmed aster has 2-inch-wide flowers and hairy leaves. Alma Potschke' (salmon pink), `Purple Dome', and `September Ruby' are popular varieties. Zones 1-24.

A. novi-belgii hybrids. Plant form is similar to A. novae-angliae, but the leaves are smooth. There are scores of named varieties ranging from dwarf kinds like `Bonny Blue' (violet flowers; 10 to 12 inches high) to tall ones like `Winston S. Churchill' (raspberry red; to 3 feet) and 'Climax' (true blue; to 6 feet). …

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