With mounds of small, daisy-like flowers, New England and New York asters, as well as woodland and alpine types, burst into bloom when little else is left, extending the fall colour parade by six weeks or more.
There are many different forms of these plants. The petite 20-centimetre alpine asters, such as ‘Pinkie’, are ideal for the front of the border, while the 60- to 90-centimetre varieties (see the next page) look attractive in front of ornamental grasses. The 1.25-metre giant asters, such as ‘Harrington’s Pink’, make a wonderful backdrop for many shorter perennials, including catmint (Nepeta) and pincushion flower (Scabiosa). All make great cut flowers and are magnets for bees and butterflies.
Aster is Greek for “star.” And whether you trim these plants or let them grow naturally, these cheery flowers are truly stars of the fall garden.
We asked horticulturist, landscape designer and Canadian Gardening Design Matters columnist Judith Adam for tips on how to make the most of these colourful perennials in the fall garden.
What are the opportunities and challenges of designing with asters?
Pink asters are valuable for their late-season, jewel-like beauty, which helps extend our enjoyment of the garden. Keeping asters neat and presentable, however, is often a challenge. Tall ones should be staked to prevent collapse.
What kinds of structures, paving, fencing, colours and materials work best?
Natural flagstone and concrete cobblestone pavers in tones of grey and taupe partner well with pink asters. At a cottage, they look good with silver-grey cedar decks and fences. The worst background for pink asters is red brick.