Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Plant profile: Aster

Usually blooming after other flowers have finished for the year, asters are associated with afterthought and cheerfulness in old age. Way back in December we decided we'd need a bit of cheering up the following fall, when, we anticipated, the rest of our flowers would be defunct. We bought the biggest, baddest perennial aster we could find - "Bill's Big Blue" - which has gone one to flatten several nearby plants with it's monstrousness, and flower maniacally, absolutely coated in cute violet-blue flowers like a hippie Sherman tank. This vigorous aster is from Bay Area nurseryman Ed Carman.

Latin name: Symphyotrichum novi-belgii ("sim-fee-oh-TRICK-um BELL-gee-eye")
Common name: New York Aster, Michaelmas Daisy
Originally from: Eurasia and North America
Blooms: In the fall it's absolutely covered in little violet-blue daisy-like flowers with a yellow center.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Average.
Where to find in P. Garden: In the middle back bed - if you walk in via the path by the Wrong Way sign you can't miss it right now.

An insect favorite, ours is currently covered in bees and butterflies. We'll have to save some seeds and get a couple more of these going for next year. One notable thing about this flower is that its number of petals is a Fibonacci number. How bored a person must have been to have sat and figured that out one cannot imagine - perhaps it was some sort of punishment devised for prisoners or schoolchildren.

We also have the pink, lavender and purple annual China aster, Callistephus chinensis, (left) growing by the steps this year, from seed sent over by a friend from Tasmania. They got a late start this year and look a bit sparse but maybe they'll reseed and do better next year.

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