Thursday, September 24, 2009


Shopping for Asters is tricky business. This is one of those huge genera with enough species in it to keep any taxonomies busy for years. To make matters worse they're sold in the middle of a sea mums. Chrysanthemums, Guhhhh the name strikes fear in the hearts of gardeners the world over. People buy them for fall color. Plants sold right in front of the grocery store must be good right? hehe. People do all sorts of stupid things with these plants. They'll hollow out a pumpkin and put the mum in the top so their jack-o'-lantern looks like it has hair. (Usually a sign of what houses to avoid on Halloween.) Most people though seem to throw them out when they're done. Let's do the math for a moment.

A perennial massively produced to the point where some garden centers sell nothing but Mums and Pumpkins year after year. You can buy them at the grocery store, big box stores, and I remember slamming the door on a girl scout holding one once or twice. Come next year where the hell did they all go? The one thing people aren't doing with this plant seems to be putting it in the ground!

Worst yet almost all of them aren't pollinated. They're just clumps of flower petals with nothing to offer. So that's why I tend to stick with Asters which tend to have more nectar and pollen to offer. Even then though that's no guarantee you'll attract anything special to your yard. And these are the ones I like the most.

Aster novae-angliae is a fall blooming aster that's already getting lots of attention. Hardly any of the flowers have opened and I see bees already clinging to it. It's a monster of a plant too. All those store bought Asters and Mums are cut down in July so they grow in a dome shape. Asters naturally grow in messy somewhat random points and space their flowers out more. I've herd you'll get more flowers if you force the doming form but I don't think that's true at all. Sure the flowers are more spread out but once this plant gets going it will look fabulous all the same.

Another Aster I have grows like a weed on our property. I don't mind this at all and let it grow as it likes. I probably have hundreds of these plants out in the yard. But it's only the ones growing in full sun that are swarm with attention. Honey Bees, Bumblebees, Mason Wasps, and Digger Bees as well a cloud of other pollinators all dance around them.