A farmer in eastern North America may still refer to our native fall blooming asters as weeds. However, the plant explorers who came to this country about two centuries ago, recognized their horticultural value and took them to England where these American Asters were renamed after St. Michael. St. Michael’s Mass is celebrated in September when many of these beauties bloom – so they became known as Michaelmas Daisies and were greatly prized by the Europeans.
While they started out, without honor in their own country, these roadside weeds eventually came back home after being hybridized to produce an array of wonderful colors. For example, one species, the New England Aster, once had only deep purple flowers, but now has blue, pink, reddish and white forms.
These are forgiving plants and they are now favorites in our autumn gardens. Most grow tall, so benefit from pinching back in spring and early summer to make them more compact.
They are easily divided in the growing season. They prefer well-drained soil and full to part sun. The clusters of small daisy flowers are colorful and charmingly informal, both in the garden and in the vase. This perennial extends the sequence of bloom and should be included in every well-dressed garden.