The gardener is generally in a state of overload by fall. We’ve fought weeds, tangled with the hose a few too many times, and deadheaded flowers since spring. But there are those few that consider fall the best season of all. There are reasons to feel encouraged by this seasonal change. The temperatures cool, rain returns, or at least stays in the ground longer, flowers hold up better with cooler temperatures, and it’s very doable.
One group of perennials that own fall are the asters. We have numerous choices of glorious native asters that flower into November. Short, tall, tightly mounding, or gloriously arching, for sun or partial sun, every garden should have a few.
Since there are so many, I’d like to introduce you to a few of my favorites. In low and mounding, front of the border asters, use the “Wood Series”. Available in pink, blue, and purple, they will fill and grow as loosely mounding perennials for summer, flowering in September and October. The pink choice is more like a pale lavender, a gorgeous color for fall. Buy them as Aster dumosus or Symphyotrichum dumosum (a recent reclassification), commonly known as the dwarf side button aster.
A couple taller varieties are related to each other (cousins you might say), originally found growing in Kentucky, they are Aster oblongifolius or Symphyotrichum oblongifolium. The variety A. ‘October Skies’ grows to four feet (do not believe the tags, which say much less) with an equal spread. I grow this variety through peony rings in spring to support the stems all summer. The name defines the color of the flowers. Its cousin A. ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ is also blue, the stems more woody, the height equal or a tad more. Flowers arrive in October and continue into November. Passing pollinators, desperate for nectar, always stop for a drink here, where it’s not unusual to hear the entire plant humming with honeybees, and dancing with butterflies.
In tall arching I recommend Aster cordifolius. The slender stems can arch to five feet, dancing between golden rod, late chrysanthemums, and ornamental grasses. The flowers are numerous, a pale, pale blue. Native throughout the Eastern seaboard, it’s drought tolerant too. This species welcomes partial sun, where it adds glitter to the garden in November.
It’s a nice way to end the year, a spot of color to reward your hard work.