by Sandy Swegel
July is when the aster begins to shine in the garden. We were walking around a hot drought xeric garden yesterday where many flowering plants were going to seed (ah, flax and larkspur we miss your blues already) or had complete browned and been cut back (goodbye poppies). Amid the browning foliage, there were splashes of color we forget about each year like the amazing Zinnia grandiflora, a very short aster, native to plains and foothills, that thrives along hot concrete walkways.
Standing near this tiny aster, we could look up to the back of the garden where there was a bit of shade and moisture and see tall asters in full bud. In the sunny grassy open space nearby, purple asters had already bloomed and were feeding pollinators and butterflies. We looked to a neighbor’s irrigated garden and saw a splendid patch of Michaelmas daisies ready to bloom with hundreds of flowers. Aster may have small individual flowers, but they cram dozens of flowers onto each flower stalk.
Asters aren’t very picky about location and in cities, you’ll see they seed themselves into alleys and sometimes into your flower beds. In fields, the purple asters often grow one plant here and one there out among uncut grasses.
The very best thing about asters: butterflies love them. And we definitely want to keep the butterflies happy.
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