Skip to content

Aster Season: GBBD, September 2019

September 18, 2019

Ionactis linarifolia clumpI’m several days late with my Bloom Day post this month.

As we passed the Labor Day weekend, it seemed as though a weather switch was activated, bringing cool temperatures and an autumnal feel to my Maine garden. Blooms on the tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) that are the glory of the August garden are now fading, and members of the greater Asteraceae family have taken the stage. These include composite flowers like Coreopsis and Rudbeckia, but also flowers of Liatris and the many species of goldenrod (Solidago) that bloom around the edges of my garden.


Although the daylily (Hemerocallis) season is largely over, there are still a few last buds waiting to open on late varieties like ‘Richard’, ‘Chewonki,’ ‘Autumn Minaret’, ‘Final Touch’ and ‘Rosy Returns.’ I even have one daylily, the very late-blooming ‘Sandra Elizabeth’ that has not yet opened its first bud.

late daylilies

I still have three species of Monarda in bloom. The scarlet M. didyma is a favorite of hummingbirds preparing to migrate. Its flowers, along with those of M. fistulosa and M. punctata are also loved by native bees (not surprising given their common name of “beebalm”).

red Monarda Monarda punctata September

Sedums come into their own in September, and these have been a favorite nectar source for my amazing bumper crop of monarch butterflies. (I have seen six newly-emerged butterflies in my garden in the past four days, all but one from chrysalises that I never noticed until I found a butterfly hanging on the empty chrysalis case drying its wings.)

sedum autumn fire 2019 monarch on sedum

Ionactis linarifolia with phloxBut the stars of the September garden are the true asters. The first of these to bloom in my garden is the flax-leaved aster (Ionactis linarifolia). This is a native wildflower that grows happily in my property’s sandy soil, and I have transplanted  several into the front slope garden. This one has seeded itself into a clump of moss phlox (Phlox subulata). It will be interesting to see if these plants can peacefully coexist in shared space. I hope so, since the phlox blooms in spring and the aster in fall.

The flax-leaved aster has been followed by a number of other wild asters that grow around the edges of my garden and occasionally pop up as self-sown seedlings in flower beds.

heart-leaved aster 2019 white aster 2019

But my favorite aster is our native New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), which has just begun to bloom this week. For several years now, I have been growing the popular nursery cultivar, ‘Alma Potschke’ in the porch border, but I am not a fan of its coral color (and I notice that the native bees also avoid it if they have other choices). I much prefer the purple-pink color range of the wild asters. This past year, I planted eight seed-grown New England asters on the front slope, and I am eager to see what variety of colors I will get in their flowers as they bloom for the first time this year.

Front Slope NE asters

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see September blooms from other gardens.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2019 10:19 pm

    A belated happy GBBD, Jean. Your post is a good reminder than I should pay more attention to family associations in my own garden. I love asters but, thus far, I’ve only found 2 species that will grow here – and Coreopsis and Rudbeckia struggle as well. While you have fewer daylilies, I’m still impressed by the range present in your garden. I’m actively seeking rebloomers to add to my small collection in the interest of extending their season.

    • September 30, 2019 10:27 am

      Kris, Over the years, I have made a special effort to add late blooming and reblooming daylilies to my garden. As I write this, I still have flowers on Autumn Minaret, Sandra Elizabeth and Rosy Returns, and one of my three Happy Returns plants has put up a new flower scape.

  2. September 22, 2019 11:16 pm

    I love all the late season color in your garden, Jean. My asters are not blooming yet, but I am impressed with how low maintenance they are. Yours are lovely!

    • September 30, 2019 10:30 am

      Deb, I love fall asters, and always enjoy seeing masses of them blooming along the sides of the road at this time of year. My late-blooming smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) ‘Bluebird’ just opened its first flowers yesterday, and I now have flowers open on all eight seed-grown New England aster plants, each with a somewhat different color to its flowers.

  3. September 23, 2019 11:45 am

    I also like the color variety found among the wild NE Asters. I suppose this variation helps explain the massive number of cultivars.

    • September 30, 2019 10:34 am

      Jason, You are lucky to have access to many different cultivars of NE aster. It’s ironic that here in New England, the only cultivars widely available are the coral-hued ‘Alma Potschke’ and the dwarf form ‘Purple Dome.’ A friend also has plants of the tall, deep purple ‘Hela Lacey’ and a lavender ‘Mrs. Wright’, but she got divisions of these from other gardeners; they are not available at nurseries. I did notice that my favorite local nursery has added seed-grown natives to its catalog this year, which I consider a plus.

  4. September 25, 2019 1:53 am

    Oh, I think I prefer the flax-leafed aster to the New England aster. I do not know, since I can see them only in pictures. they are both rather excellent.

    • September 30, 2019 10:51 am

      Tony, the flax-leafed asters are much more demure than the New England asters. The flax-leafed asters are short plants, growing from a few inches to a little over a foot tall, and their flowers are about 1/2″ wide and (at least in my garden) are generally a soft lavender color. They thrive in the lean sandy soils that are common in my area and grow in mostly unamended soil in my garden. The New England asters are much showier plants that typically grow about 4′ tall (and can be as tall as 6′) with flowers that are 2-3 times as large as those of the flax-leafed asters. They come in a broader range of hues, and their colors tend to be brighter (with more red in them) than those of the flax-leafed asters. The New England asters like more moisture than my soil normally provides, and I am growing them in parts of the garden where the soil has been amended with substantial amounts of organic matter.

      • October 2, 2019 12:49 am

        The subdued personality is sort of what I like about it, although the flashier New England aster is rad too. In our forested landscapes, flowers that seem to fit in are important. There are not many situations where we grow the more refined flowers, such as annual bedding plants. Our only native asters are fleabane, which are nice, but can get weedy.

  5. October 14, 2019 6:08 pm

    Six monarchs – congratulations! I was trying to photograph an African monarch yesterday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: