Photo taken 12/4/2013
Autumn into winter – the season of death. In early autumn, with the leaves turning, we may be less likely to notice some of the less beautiful death throes happening in our garden but now, with the leaves all off, well, it’s all lying there: twiggy, black, wizened and mushy. Herbaceous (non-woody) plants tend to die back particularly poorly so it’s always fun to be on the lookout for ones that do manage to go prettily into winter.The photo above shows one plant looking quite nice and another looking a bit like it’s melting. The fine-textured, puffy-looking plant is an aster, I expect it is Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’ (aka Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) or ‘Prince.’ The melty one is an Agapanthus.
I have rarely grown asters and I’m not sure why. Some definitely tend to flop and get bare, naked bottom parts and some have that regrettable tendency to mildew, but the clear, bright springy Easter egg colors so typical of asters coming in the fall do help one deny a little longer that the gloomy days of winter are coming up. Asters are seldom Scrooge-ish with their flowers and the A. lateriflorus hybrids in particular tend to run amuck with a zillion tiny white flowers with cheerful pink centers. The tiny, dark leaves can make a nice foil for many other types of foliage. The A. laterflorus hybrids seems less prone to flop and mildew than some others.
Asters are prairie plants and that prefer reasonably well-drained soils, sun and some water. Letting them dry out tends to be a recipe for mildew (perhaps explaining why I don’t usually grow them since I am historically an erratic waterer). The tome entitled Perennials A Gardener’s Reference by local garden experts Susan Carter, Carrie Becker and Bob Lilly, has a list of about 50 asters with their key characteristics including if they are notable for their tendency to mildew, flop and run. Their info may be a bit terse at times but it is to the point. Of Aster divaricatus they say, “White wood aster, tolerates shade and dry soil, flops but nicely.”
ASTER LATERIFLORUS FAST FACTS
- sun, well-drained soil best
- some summer water, allowing to dry out can lead to mildew
- ‘Lady in Black’ 3-4.5′H x 1.5′+W; ‘Prince’ 2-3′x1.5′+
- prone to slug and rabbit nibbling, mildew
- needs dividing every few years
- butterflies and bees like asters
Some plant genera are so diverse that you scratch your head wondering how they put them together. (Okay, originally they put them together based largely on floral parts and other obvious physical characteristics, enabling one to “key” out a plant. Now, plants are moved about based on DNA.) Read more »
I’ve always lusted a bit after this tree and when I looked I saw that the only time I’ve written about it was in October – not its best time. So here it is at one of its finest moments, glowing -in a subdued, autumnal way – wearing nothing but its berries. You can see why its common name is Golden Raindrops. I’ll try to remember to get one of the spring flowers next year!
For my original post on this crabapple, go here.
Photo taken 10/15/2013
My daughter has been taxed with analyzing a book chock full of metaphors for school and they really piss her off so I’m sure she’d find a plant called love-lies-bleeding worthy of an eye roll whereas most people find it charming. It certainly comes across as very Victorian. Read more »
As a former geologist I’m a little bit in love with the winding stone walls at the entry to Meridian Park (on 50th and Wallingford home of the Good Shepherd Center and Seattle TIlth). These walls make me strangely happy. Read more »
I’m not sure I approve of Arbutus unedo’s habit of having flowers and fruit simultaneously. I like plants that give showy flowers and fruit (not that Arbutus flowers are near the top of the list when it come to showy but at least they are at least plentiful and noticeable) but why do it at the same time? It just seems wasteful. Read more »
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’
Photo courtesy of the RHS webstie
Ah, miscanthus, beautiful in flower, imposing, lending a fine, graceful vertical note to the garden. Ooh, Miscanthus, on the invasive species list in 25 states. I’m not as fond of big grasses as I used to be (see post) mostly because you have to divide them every year or two and if you don’t, you’re screwed. Read more »
Andrena barbilabris, From Sam Droege’s Photostream
Andrena barbilabris is just a common little bee that likes heaths and sandy areas and seems to be fond of making nests in compacted footpaths in the UK. Isn’t it adorable? Just like the ewoks in Star Wars. Read more »
delphinium, cultivar unknown
Delphiniums were one of the first flowers I grew – so tall, so imposing, so deliciously blue – how could they not be one of my first choices when I took to gardening? Other blues have called over the years – some grown and some still to be grown: Gentiana, Lobelia, Clematis, Nigella, Ceratostigma – oh those alluring blues that beckon us so much more than white or pink or yellow. Be it rarity or be it something else, pretty much everyone seems to crave some blue flowers in their garden. Read more »
I learned years ago when working in a nursery that every plant has a front and you need to consider it when placing the plant either in the ground or in a pot. (It’s true, really look at most plants and you’ll see one side “feels” like the front.) Similarly, gardens have points of view, you commonly will approach it or look at it from a particular direction (or two). Read more »