Tag Archives: Asters

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.

2011: Lessons Learned from the Garden

21 Jun

When it comes to gardening, I learn as I go. In 2011, I learned some valuable lessons:

  1. Yarrow gets big and bushy and then it starts to fall open, exposing its barer, unattractive core. Of course, this could be due to the fact that perhaps one is supposed to stake Yarrow. But I am not about to start staking my plants. Harsh, I know — but when you don’t have a lot of time to garden, it comes down to survival of the fittest, not support for the floppiest. For this reason, Yarrow was on my do-not-resuscitate list. Actually, it earned a spot on my get-rid-of list, not only because of its spineless character, but also because when it fades, it doesn’t fade nicely. When I could no longer bear to look at it, I leveled it. And lo and behold, it bloomed again. For that act of bravery, it earned a reprieve. But I have my eye on it.
  2. Some plants, such as Asters, are space hogs.  Of course, had I paid more attention to info about plant spread, rather than just plant height, I might have realized this beforehand. This oversight on my part has caused some problems elsewhere in the garden, and I suspect I will be trimming or moving (or removing) plants in years to come for this very reason. As an example, Montauk Daisy is also a remarkable grower, and within one year, the two daisies I planted completely overtook the poor Asiatic Lilies in front of them, like a mother hen atop her eggs. The lilies did not survive the experience. The daisies are now on my watch list. As for the Asters, two of them had to go, and they did, in Spring 2012.
  3. Gaura (Belleza Dark Pink) did not survive the winter. All six plants died. I was willing to give them one more chance and plant them again, but I couldn’t find the same variety. Instead, I’ve planted Gaura (Passionate Rainbow), which caught my eye because of its wonderful foliage; you can see it here in the foreground (note the bushy green Montauk Daisy in the back). If this new Gaura does not survive, that’s it — I will move on to something hardier.
  4. Beware of hubris. A couple of my tulips did not come up in 2012. Those miserable squirrels (see the bottom of this post) must have figured out how to get them. But my squirrel-proof bird feeder gives them pause. Actually, it doesn’t; they just get the seeds that fall to the ground. Miserable squirrels.
  5. Marc Chagall said, “All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.” But some flowers in my garden in 2011 just did not go well with their neighbors. They may have been friends, but they weren’t a love match. So I moved them. This is a lesson I learned a while ago — if you aren’t happy with a particular combination of flowers, if the colors don’t sing together, move things around. If the plants are hardy, they will be back next year. Otherwise, they shouldn’t be in the garden.
  6. Final lesson is one concerning dogs and gardens, but as there are as of yet no solutions to that particular problem, I will simply leave you with a photo of the two culprits: