I have always felt ambivalent about asters. They bloom at a time of the year when things are winding down, so their bright colors are welcome. They provide choice food for bees. But I haven’t often seen them grown well enough (certainly not in my own garden), I suppose, to firmly persuade me that their autumn benefits compensate for their rangy, dull, and unattractive appearance during the rest of the year.
Nancy Goodwin’s aster border at Montrose may have changed my mind.
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Fanny’s Aster’ at Montrose
It rained all last week, and it looks as though this week may serve up more of the same. I believe, though, that those dreary skies may be just what my peach asters needed to coax them into bloom at last.
Like a number of the faithful bloomers in my garden, I received these as pass-alongs in a plant swap a few years ago, and the donor did not know the plant’s name. I suspect it may be Chrysanthemum ‘Single Apricot,’ also known as Chrysanthemum x ‘Single Apricot Korean.’ They have multiplied assertively, but not aggressively, in a spot that I would describe as having bright shade.
I adore this color. It may appear a bit more pink than it actually is; it has a definite, clear orange tint to it, like the color of cooked shrimp. Yet it is a soft tone, unlike my beloved electric orange zinnias or the brassy mums that light up my border from across the garden.
Alas, they make terrible cut flowers, drooping irrevocably within a day. But perhaps if I must linger in the garden in order to appreciate them, then it is just as well.
I’m not desperately keen on asters, but I like this one very much. Drought-tolerant, unbothered by insects or disease, it grows about 18 inches high and stays where it is put. It likes full sun or partial shade and asks virtually nothing of the gardener, although a little deadheading here and there improves its blooming.
An easy plant for the novice gardener, and a butterfly-friendly one at that.