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Billowing Beds: Autumn Asters

Asters come in a variety of colors: mauve, pink, purple,  blue and white. (Jim Lillicotch,

Most of us cram too many plants into our gardens as our lust for more plants exceeds our available open space. But in the fall one can't have too many asters.

Fortunately asters self-seed so one usually ends up with many plants, which is wonderful when they all bloom at once in mauve, pink, purple,  blue and white. I especially like the look of the tiny white wood aster that sows its seeds liberally and looks like baby's breath among the larger aster flowers.

At this time of the year, I pick lots of bouquets of asters and chrysanthemums and always add some of the small white ones to a vase. Sometimes I also add some of the dangling pink blossoms of my perennial begonias that bloom into fall, as well as occasionally adding some foliage from an Itea shrub too.

Asters are so easy to grow, but they do have one downside. Most grow too tall and so it is a lot of work cutting those tall thick stems to the ground each year when they are finished blooming. Sometimes my lawn is just covered with huge piles of their spent branches as I do my fall clean-up. And they don't crush down well when one tries to put them in a bag or can. For that reason, I am trying to buy only short growing varieties. I try to check the tags on any new asters I get and love the ones in the catalogs that say either "dwarf" or 18 inches tall!

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