A Forgotten Flower

15 Sep

Some flowers have appeared in my garden unbeknownst to me. But there are other flowers that I did plant, and then forgot about. These have usually been late-season additions to the garden–discounted specimens that caught my eye when I was at the nursery in the autumn looking for mulch, for example, or a spade, but not flowers. I would tuck these spur-of-the moment purchases somewhere in the garden, with a vow to keep track of  them more properly later. Inevitably,  I forgot even to note their names.

There is currently a plant in bloom in the garden that I have absolutely no record of, though I vaguely remember sticking it in its current, horrible spot by the hammock–an afterthought really, since I thought I would find a better place for it this year. Which I would have done had I developed a plan for it, which I didn’t since I forgot I had even planted it.

It is an aster. Well, technically it isn’t. If you thought DNA testing was only for crime scenes, think again. It also helps with the (re)classification of plants. Genetic testing of asters in the 1990s revealed that all asters are not, in fact, asters. All the North American varieties were reclassified as Symphyotrichum. Not surprisingly, everyone still calls them asters. To further confuse matters, asters are also known as Michaelmas Daisies. Michaelmas is the celebration of the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, which is on September 29. Michaelmas was also traditionally the end of the harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere, a time when asters are in bloom. Hence, the nickname.

The forgotten aster (sorry, symphyotrichum) in my garden is a Winston Churchill. It is a novi-belgii– a New York Aster. Not knowing the history behind the naming of this flower, it is nonetheless fascinating to speculate about the possibilities. Winston’s mother, Jennie, was from New York.  So, a nice tribute to his mother. But then, the verbal sparring between Winston Churchill and Lady Nancy Astor, an American-born member of Parliament, was legendary– so perhaps the person who originally named this cultivar had a sense of humor…. Either way, it is a flower that deserves to be unforgettable.

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