Thursday, September 22, 2016

More About Asters

There is always more about Asters, isn't there? Living with Asters is a bit like living with kids - every time you think you have something figured out you discover something else that throws all your ideas out on their ears. Asters are always that one step ahead of us...

I took a short walk down to the edge of my Marsh and inspected some of the Asters in bloom now.

One (former) Aster, now to be known as Oclemena acuminata, is Whorled Aster. It's a handy one for the woods garden as it does very well in shaded and dry conditions. It spreads mildly, unlike some members of this clan, but is easily pulled if it gets out of bounds. It's short, about 16" high, always looks healthy, and blooms late.

The flowers are a sort of 'shabby chic' for the garden.

This one, with a much prettier flower, is Purple-stemmed Aster, or Swamp Aster, Symphyotrichum puniceum. It likes life damper, and sunnier, than what suits Whorled Aster. You see it quite often at the edges of marshes or streams, rising above all the shorter plants.

The flowers are comparatively large and usually some shade of blue. I have only once seen a white one, and have so far managed to keep my mitts off, but I'll visit it once the seeds ripen. Easy to grow, but it does need moisture.

Another one that seems to like a bit of water at its feet is Flat-topped White Aster, Doellingeria umbellata. This flower cluster isn't really typical, usually they are more flat-topped, but I liked its graceful posture. This Aster can get quite tall; I have it over 6' in the back of my property although the ones here are only about 3'. The books say 'single stalks' but it does form colonies, somewhat like Goldenrods do. A big, robust plant for a wet spot, much loved by bees, wasps and other wingy things.

When I went to photograph the Flat-topped Aster above, I also found a number of plants of what I think must be Symphyotrichum ciliolatum, Fringed Blue Aster. Hard to be sure, but the leaves and flowers are as described in the books. It's the habitat that doesn't match. J. Semple in Cultivated and Native Asters of Ontario calls it a 'calciphile' and describes the typical habitat as 'open woods'. Here it grows along the edge of the marsh (probably acidic) and quite near the water.

Here's one which I can't identify. Tall, about 4', well-leaved all the way down, sturdy and healthy looking, it has spread to be a large patch here. It's in full sun, fairly damp, poor soil. The stems all have some degree of 'zig' to them, and most have the dark spots you see here. The flowers vary from white to very pale pink.

Any guesses?

And if you like guessing, how about this one? I found a number of these beside the Marsh. They tended to be about 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall, single-stemmed, with rough but healthy leaves. The flowers were all white, with the centres (the disc flowers) starting out yellow, becoming purple, and then fading to brown. Quite large for an aster. The leaves are also fairly wide for an aster and clasp the stem at their bases.

Could this be Eurybia radula, Rough-leaved Aster? That's not supposed to occur here, only being known from further North.The leaves fit the description, the flowers sort-of fit, but the location is off.

Wonder what it is...

Next post  I'll take a look at some of the dry-land Asters I have here, and if you think you're confused now, just wait!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Looking Back...

Actually, I'm not so sure I want to look back at August! It was hot. It was dry. Very hot, and very dry. It was all I could do to keep up with watering the things in pots and the few ferns I had managed to get planted early in the summer, but general weeding and gardening was pretty much impossible. The Hillside was hard as a rock, no weed came out without serious efforts with large tools and/or explosives... the Sampler Garden was full of slightly wilted things I really didn't want to know about, and planting anything new was just a short cut to a dead something new. So it was a month just to endure; come to think of it, that's not so unusual for August.

Let's look on the bright side, of course there was one. August is Daisy Month, no question, and Daisies are Yellow Flowers, also no question, so I put together a mix of Yellow Daisies just to enjoy their variety. A lot of these are seedlings from a long-ago package of Rudbeckia seeds. The variety was called, if I remember rightly, 'Cherokee Sunset'. The flowers were supposed to be yellow/orange and double but I got no doubles and very few straight yellows. But the seedlings still appear all over the place and I like the different shapes, sizes and colours. I threw in a few other daisies just for fun.
yellow daisy collage
Nothing exotic here, just dependable performers. Do you know them all?

One curious thing, which I had not noticed before, is the way Rudbeckia fulgida flowers nod at sunset. Every evening when I left the Studio to go back to the house I went past several clumps of these in the Herb Garden and it really looked odd. Every morning they were brightly upright again.
Have they always done this and I never noticed? Or is it something to do with the dry summer? This is the one that was so popular a few years back, called 'Goldsturm'. The books don't tell you, but be warned, it seeds around like the dickens.

Coneflowers, Echinacea species, seemed to actually like the dry weather. My yellow one, E. paradoxa, bloomed it's head off, more flowers on the plant than I've ever seen before. I grew a few seeds from it last year, and they finally bloomed. I expected more yellow Coneflowers but what I got instead was a bit humorous. I got dingy pale buff pinkish flowers shaped like E. paradoxa, that is, with large drooping petals, and colours somewhere between the purple of the purple Coneflowers and the yellow. Luckily some of the other plants in the patch were quite lovely, including this pale pink one.
echinacea purpurea pale pink daisy

My E. tennesseensis bloomed for the first time. Every plant had flowers that started out with a 'crook' to their necks, then straightened out. The flowers (and the plants) are much smaller than E. purpurea, and more delicate. The colour is a rich pink-violet.
My Sand Hill garden was a mess. The Horsetails and the Coreopsis (daisies again) and the grasses spent the summer in mortal combat. I'm not sure if anybody won. It actually looked not too bad, but the part of me that insists on weeding felt tired just looking at it. Surprisingly, a lot of small Delphiniums came up in between all the 'weeds', as did a lot of brown Foxgloves. Yes, brown. This was Digitalis ferruginea. It is a narrow spire of brown and pale cream flowers, long-lasting and actually quite attractive. It mixes with grasses very happily.

Had enough pinkness and yellowness and daisy-ness? Here's one of the small Delphiniums as a palate-cleanser:
Now let's forget August and look ahead to September and, hopefully, eventually some rain.