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A Star In The Garden
A Star In The Garden
Published by Porterbrook
Default A Star In The Garden


Frank W. Porter
Porterbrook Native Plants

In Ohio and West Virginia, the blossoms of native asters brighten roadsides, meadows and prairies in the autumn. Although the flowers of many asters are white, several others range from blue to purple with some exhibiting beautiful pink petals. In addition to their ornamental qualities, asters are an important food source for butterflies and are essential to the survival of over wintering colonies of honeybees and other social insects. The seeds that are produced after flowering become food for migrating and resident songbirds.

The genus name comes from the Greek aster, meaning star. And stars in the garden they are! While some gardeners consider asters a weedy plant, they simply do not understand their growing requirements and have planted them in the wrong location.

Asters should be an integral part of every native plant garden. Regardless of your growing conditions, there is a species of aster that will fit perfectly into your design. As always, it is a matter of selecting the right plant for the right spot. One important point to remember is that some asters are stoloniferous, which means they produce underground runners and can quickly colonize an area. Other asters do not spread and can be planted comfortably among other species.

For those who have wooded areas or shade gardens, there is a broad selection of asters from which to choose. Symphyotricum cordifolia (Common Blue Wood or Heart-leaved Aster) produces blue-violet to rose-colored flowers and will form an attractive patch in a wooded area. Eurybia divaricata (White Wood Aster) offers pure white flowers and will also colonize areas beneath the canopy. Eurybia schreberi (Schreber’s Aster) also has white flowers, but the leaves are larger. Eurybia macrophylla (Bigleaf Aster) has violet or lavender flowers with harsh and thick basal leaves. It is an excellent substitute for Hostas. Each of these asters should be used to naturalize an area and are not good candidates for a cultivated garden.

If you have a moist and shaded spot, Symphyotricum prenanthoides (Crooked-Stem Aster) has blue-violet flowers and leaves that clasp the stem. The stem zigzags and has several flowering branches. Symphyotricum puniceum (Purple-stemmed Aster) also has blue-violet flowers with clasping leaves and a purplish stem. Eurybia radula (Rough-leaved Aster) produces violet flowers with lanced-shape leaves that are coarsely toothed. Because of habitat destruction, this species is becoming endangered. Symphyotricum novae-angliae (New England Aster) can reach six feet in height. It has violet-purple flowers, but on occasion produces bright pink flowers. It can become rather aggressive, so use caution where you plant it. Doellingeria umbellate (Parasol Whitetop) has white flowers that grow in a flat cluster.

Several species of asters thrive in dry wooded areas. Oclemena acuminata (Whorled Wood Aster), whose upper leaves are larger than the lower ones, has white or purple-tinged flowers. Symphyotricum undulatum (Waxyleaf Aster) has leaves that clasp the stem and are wavy-margined. The flowers are blue-violet. Symphyotricum lowrieanum (Lowrie’s Blue Wood Aster) is unusual in that its leaves have a greasy to the touch surface. Symphyotricum sagittifolius (Arrow-leaved Aster) possesses either blue, pink or white flowers and leaves that are arrow-shaped at the base. It is similar to Heart-leaved Aster except that it has winged petioles.

Some aster species thrive in dry, sunny locations. Symphyotricum ericoides (Heath Aster) has white flowers and narrow leaves with rough edges. It will spread slowly, so give it some room. Symphyotricum dumosum (Rice Button Aster) has pale lavender or sometimes white flowers borne on numerous flowering branches. Lonactis linariifolius (Stiff Aster) resembles a Rosemary plant. It has bright blue flowers with a yellow disk and appears almost like a small woody shrub. Stiff Aster would do wonderfully in a rock garden. Symphyotricum patens (Late Purple Aster) enjoys rugged conditions. The flowers are numerous and surround a yellow disc, which brighten a fall afternoon. Symphyotricum oblongifolium (Shale or Aromatic Aster) is among the last wildflowers to bloom before winter. Its violet-purple flowers form bushy mounds. Symphyotricum leave (Smooth Aster) has blue-violet flowers and clasping smooth leaves. Symphyotricum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) has numerous diminutive white flowers usually with a purple disk.

For those of you with brave hearts, you might want to consider planting an entire garden area with the native asters of Ohio and West Virginia. When they begin to bloom in the fall, you would truly have a garden of many colors. The wildlife that would come to visit your garden would be amazing. And unlike Fall mums which frequently do not survive our harsh winters, your asters will return year after year.

This article was first published by the Marietta Register
By Dirty Knees on 06-12-2009, 01:40 PM

This maybe answers my question. Are there any other blooming plants for really dry shady spots?
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By joepyeweed on 06-12-2009, 01:46 PM

I was thinking Big leaf Aster (aster macrophyllus) make make a nice plant for your tough garage area. Its big low growing leaves make a nice ground cover. The white blooms in fall are an added bonus.
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By Porterbrook on 06-12-2009, 02:16 PM

Aster macrophyllus tends to like moist conditions. Aster divaricatus would be a better choice. Plants that bloom in dry shade usually grow at the edge of the woods in dappled light. I posted a list of forbs that should do alright in your garage area so long as you amend the soil.
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By Dirty Knees on 06-16-2009, 06:40 PM

I found your other list. Tks. Where is the list of forbs.
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By Porterbrook on 06-16-2009, 07:40 PM

Sorry for the confusion. The list of forbs is the wildflowers that I suggested for the area between your garage.
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By Prairiefreak on 06-17-2009, 03:46 PM

Elm-leafed goldenrod is good for dry shade, but it is also an aggressive spreader.
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By Dirty Knees on 06-24-2009, 04:47 PM

I'm sorry. I didn't know a forb was a flower. I will remember that.
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By biigblueyes on 06-24-2009, 04:55 PM

Originally Posted by Dirty Knees View Post
I'm sorry. I didn't know a forb was a flower. I will remember that.
ooooh, that's right. You may have missed the Forb Freaks vs. Veggieheads discussions a while back. (ps. I had to look up "forb" too)
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garden, star

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