Photo: Ian Muttoo
Asters are the stars of our September gardens, and indeed the word aster means ‘star’. The individual daisy-like blooms in the clustered flowered heads look star-like.
New England Asters are native from Vermont to New Mexico, and the New York asters of course are also natives.
All of the species in this large genus have undergone hybridization so that now there are many plants of varying colors in shades of purple lavender, pink, pinkish red and white. The older varieties are tall and gangly and tend to flop over.
Since they like moisture, our hot dry summers also frequently cause their lower leaves to go brown and dry so that plants looks as if their long legs are scruffy.
I cut back my tall asters a couple of times in the early summer to try to keep them more compact, but this doesn’t make them as short as I would like.
I am now trying to plants some of the newer shorter cultivars such as ‘Purple Dome’, which was the first true dwarf cultivar of the New England Asters.
‘October skies’ is advertised in catalogs as growing only 18″ tall and also listed are ‘Alert’ as short red, ‘Malba’ a short pink. ‘Snow cushion’ and ‘Bonny Blue’ are the compact cultivars.
Some nurseries also offer a dwarf aster collection. As a confirmed aster addict I am going to acquire every short cultivar I can find to put in front of my old taller varieties.
www.bluestoneperennials.com ‘October Skies’
www.waysidegardens.com dwarf collection