Fall Asters To Grow On Long Island - 27 East


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Fall Asters To Grow On Long Island

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The New York Aster, or Aster novae-belgii,  grows to just over 4 feet tall with flowers ranging in color from lavender to purple and white.  ANDREW MESSINGER

The New York Aster, or Aster novae-belgii, grows to just over 4 feet tall with flowers ranging in color from lavender to purple and white. ANDREW MESSINGER

The New England Aster, or Aster novae-angliae, can be found locally growing from 3 to 7 feet tall.  The flowers can range from lavender to purple and even white.

The New England Aster, or Aster novae-angliae, can be found locally growing from 3 to 7 feet tall. The flowers can range from lavender to purple and even white.

Asters are often found growing along side Solidago (soldenrod) and the tamed varieties of both plants make great fall combinations for garden plantings.  Both also make good cuts.

Asters are often found growing along side Solidago (soldenrod) and the tamed varieties of both plants make great fall combinations for garden plantings. Both also make good cuts. ANDREW MESSINGER

Aster novae-angliae

Aster novae-angliae "Hartford" is a "tamed" New England Aster that only grows to 3 feet tall so it’s well adapted to mid-border use or low meadows, though it’s not a true native but a cultivar. This variety is one in the Colonial series that includes Providence and Boston, which were developed by horticulturist Robert Herman.


Hampton Gardener®

There’s change in the air and change in the gardens both cultivated and wild. September is the month the yellows, such as the goldenrods of various types and sizes, mature and bloom. In some places the yellow is highlighted by the purple of loosestrife, and the combination, especially at dusk, can be quite striking. But as we approach October yet another plant begins to fill the palette of the landscape with still more color.

The one spot where I know this takes place every year is on the drive along the winding roads from the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club down toward the National Golf Links and the bay. Wham, and out of nowhere like a horticultural bolt of blue lightning the Asters jump off the road shoulder and into view. Indeed, with all their vibrant color these Asters are undeniably a harbinger of fall. While there are Asters that bloom in April (Aster alpinus) and annual Asters that can be grown through the summer, it’s the fall Asters that are striking and bold and should be an important part of the later summer/fall garden and landscape.

We are particularly blessed with having two native Asters, one of which has a very interesting history. The New York Aster, Aster novae-belgii, meaning New Belgium, reveals the classic thinking of Linnaeus, who bestowed the name on it. Linnaeus knew that the Dutch had first settled the area that later became New York. Searching for a classical synonym for New Netherlands, he found that the original Roman province, which included modern Holland, was named Belgica. Thus it was logical to name this the New Belgium Aster — novae-belgii.

The plant was brought back to England in the mid 19th century, and through hybridization and reselection, British horticulturists developed the Michaelmas daisy, now a repatriate well-known to American gardeners. The plant also found its way to Germany where extensive breeding and selection was conducted well into the 20th century.

As a rule, Asters are hardy, leafy-stemmed perennials with clusters of flower heads. Individual flower heads consist of many flat rays or petals that are colored white, blue, red or purple and a central “eye,” or disk, which is generally yellow. Most varieties bloom from late August until mid-fall, and some will continue until we have a hard frost. When looking at the flowers, many are reminded of a multi-pointed star, and in fact, the Greek word “aster” means star.

While some try to grow these plants from seed, which is fine for the wild species, the only way to ensure that you get a plant that is true to name and color is to buy from reputable nurseries (mail order or local) or to make your own root divisions or stem cuttings of the cultivars. Clumps of roots of mature plants can also be divided into single or multiple divisions with one 3-year-old clump yielding as many as 20 single plants that will mature in just a year.

These plants are generally vigorous growers that do well in sandy to organic soils and will grow in full sun to partial shade. While pages and pages have been written about disease and insect problems with Asters, I’ve never been deterred from planting them. With the usual care that you’d give to any plants in your garden, they should perform well. Mildew problems can be fairly easily avoided by letting the plants have plenty of air circulation, and this means dividing the plants every few years.

Having said that, it’s only fair to also add that the Asters can get a bit tall — some to 8 feet — and some will need staking or they can get “floppy.” But with supporting twigs or stakes that blend in well, the support can become virtually invisible. Obviously, you don’t want these tall types in the front of your border. While not invasive, Asters do tend to spread and wander.

Some tricks may also apply well here. Staking can be reduced and in many cases eliminated in many of the mid-sized cultivars if the plants are grown in full sun and pinched back once or twice in spring and early summer. This is a good practice for the tall varieties as well and will result in compact, dense plants, if that’s what you want. Pinch back 2 to 3 inches of growth from each growing tip no later than June 15.

Aster x frikartii, or Frikart’s Aster, flowers in late summer with lavender flowers and grows to 3 feet tall with a similar spread. The foliage is mildew resistant and remains disease free throughout the season. Flowering starts in late July and continues for about eight weeks. Plant in full sun and fertilize only once in the spring. Some gardeners have told me that they’ve had trouble overwintering this hybrid, and the problem may be wet winter soils. If you have the good fortune of having a heavy organic soil, try mixing it with equal parts of clean, coarse sand to root depth, and this should solve the problem.

There are two cultivars of this Aster. Monch is said to be the best frikartii being similar in habit to the parent. Wonder of Staffa has lighter blue flowers than Monch and may be slightly taller, but even the best of gardeners have been known to confuse the two.

Several cultivars of the New England Aster, Aster novae-angliae, are of note: Alma Potschke is a stunning bright rose selection that grows to 4 feet with 2-inch flowers that have slightly curled petals. It is more compact than others in this group, but still needs staking. Harrington’s Pink was developed in Iowa by Mrs. Harrington, of course. This plant grows to 5 feet, bears salmon-pink flowers and is one of the latest bloomers.

In the cultivars of the New York Asters, there are three classes: The dwarfs are less than 15 inches tall, mediums are less than 4 feet tall, and the taller types range from 4 feet and up. Each group has at least half a dozen cultivars in a wide range of colors, and the dwarfs and mediums make a nice replacement for the time-worn fall mums.

When using Asters in the garden, remember that they are daylight sensitive. During the long-day periods of the summer, they make most of their vegetative growth, and as the days shorten they set their buds for the late-summer blooms. However, if you put these plants in areas where they get less than full sunlight in July and August, they can bloom up to two weeks earlier than the same plant that’s grown in more light.

The Aster that I think is most spectacular sits hidden behind a clump of tall Miscanthus. You can’t see the foliage or any part of the plant until late August when it begins to reach 6, 7 then 8 feet in height, but you can never miss it once it’s in bloom. This plant is Aster tataricus, or the Tatarian aster, from Siberia. In its first year, this plant rarely grows to more than 4 or 5 feet tall, and at this stage it looks like one humongous weed with leaves 6 inches wide and up to 2 feet long. The second year, however, the plant pushes for the sky, and when it gets there — the one I remember most was nearly 8 feet tall and hidden for most of the season way in the back of the garden — the flower stems branch near the top resulting in many spectacular blue to purple ray flowers with yellow centers. Flowering starts in September and may continue until late October and November. Davesgarden.com shows three vendors for this Aster.

Look for Asters in garden centers now or in the spring, but the largest selection is probably available from mail-order and internet nurseries. For descriptions and pictures of additional Asters, visit leafyplace.com/aster-flower-types. Keep growing.


This is the perfect time to get your lawn renovation work done.

Be careful working in the garden. Yellow jackets, the wasps, are very active, and disturbing a nest can be very, very painful. I find the nests at the edges of my borders usually right under a plant like a Hsosta or heuchera. Look before you dig.

Last chance to dig and divide your Iris clumps if they haven’t performed well. Peonies get divided and replanted toward the end of the month. Both are now being shipped by growers like Peonies Envy (peoniesenvy.com) and Schreiners (shreinersgardens.com), but many varieties are already sold out.

For those who have gone to only two applications of organic lawn fertilizer, late September is the perfect time for application No. 2.

Many spring-flowering perennials can be divided and moved now while most summer-flowering perennials get done in the spring as they first emerge. Break the rules though — see what happens. I’ve divided Geum well into September with great results.

Continue to spray plants that have mildew with neem oil. This can reduce infections next spring.

Continue to manage slugs.

Running out of time to order spring-flowering bulbs (planted in the fall).

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