Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden
The Other Asters
Asters are a genus bulging with species--about 250, so big a number that you’d expect a few to show up in gardens. Well, it’s more than a few. Yes, we gardeners are fans of daisy-shaped flowers. We also like hardy, tough perennials that flower a long time.
For example, Aster x frikartii ‘Monch,’ a romantic hybrid of the Italian aster and the Himalayan aster that blooms through the months of summer if given full sun and watered regularly. It has a taller (24 in.) sister, ‘Wonder of Staffa,’ that also blooms through summer, in lavender blue.
Aster breeders have been busy. They’ve coaxed excellent selections from many species. From the Italian aster (A. amellus) there’s ‘King George,’ a deep violet, and ‘Sonia,’ a bright pink. From the New York aster (A. novi-belgii) there’s ‘Ernest Ballard,’ with purple-red large flowers and ‘Audrey,’ lavender-blue flowers that are double (extra petals).
From the New England aster (A. novae-angliae), usually a tall plant at three to five feet, much favored by Monarch butterflies on migration, my favorite is the short, bushy ‘Purple Dome,’ which covers itself with flowers, which explains its name.
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