These tiny purple flowers (purple, of course, for the butterflies and the bees) almost hiding among my chives foliage are the flowers of the New York aster.
Asters are great late season color for the garden. But they serve an even more important role. They provide nectar for bees and butterflies, some of which may be taking off for long migration journeys.
Although it’s not readily apparent, asters have that ray flower structure that native creatures like so much. In this photo, you can actually see the earlier stages of the flower (with yellow center) and the later stages (with brown center). Try to ignore the parched earth and the dead maple leaves in the photo–they’re just examples of how long it’s been without rain.
I planted these two plants in July. I should be watering them more than I am. Asters have very deep tap roots and are great for piercing clay soil. But make sure you get them where you want them because once they’re there, they’re almost impossible to remove. More about that in a moment.
This is the white wood aster. It comes up wild all over my property. This is the tiny aster I spotted among the ragweed that I mentioned in Wednesday’s post (on someone else’s property). Bees love it.
I actually have significantly less of this aster this year than I have had in many prior years. I’m not sure if that’s because I have been fairly ruthless about deadheading–because there’s no digging these out unless they are tiny seedlings. I’ve cut them off and all that does is make them flower at lower heights.
It’s not that I don’t adore them–I do (as do the bees). But over the years I have been lax about letting them sow just about everywhere. Now I need to get them out of certain places and that’s darn near impossible. The root system, I have read, will extend as deep as 16 inches into the soil. And in a dry, baked earth year like the last 2, I’d need to dynamite them out. And who needs that disruption in the garden? Particularly over such a pretty wildflower?
So I just cut them down where I don’t want them. And even in this scorched earth dry year, they come up where I leave them alone, and bloom along the edge of our woodlands, sparkling like tiny stars against all the green.
It’s a lovely effect–and great for bees too!