We had our first light frost of the year here a few weeks early. It was 28°F on the morning of the Autumn Plant Fair.
At home, I brought what I could and covered some of the things I hadn’t finished enjoying for the season, like my passion flowers that had just begun to bloom. A little further out in the garden, the cold was enough to wilt the tender white potatoes, blacken the senna leaves, and collapse my various cockscomb varieties.
However, the late season perennials continue to grow, slightly scorched by the cold air. Helianthus angustifolius now has a white halo on the light, and Symphyotrichum georgianum still stands tall, its purple frills drooping a bit.
An unscathed plant is Symphyotrichumrummondii, or Drummond’s Aster. Its persistence is wonderful for all the insects that congregate here. Fiery skippers, hornworm flies, bees, wasps, and a variety of other insects fly from the flowers and bloom under the waning sun of the vanilla sky. These delicate flowers – white rays and yellow discs, fading to light pink and finally brown – swing with all the activity on their arching stems.
Having these late season flowers is not only good for garden ecology, but also for late season colour as it blooms for four to six weeks in October and November. And, in a confusing world of asters, I was pleased to see the heart-shaped leaves and long petioles at the bottom, which help narrow it down to Drummond asters. As the leaves grow early in the spring, their shapes provide different textures in the fine grasses of the garden.
I prune the plant well in early to mid spring when it still has basal leaves. Many of our asters grow enough foliage in late winter that short days encourage them to flower. The reduction in foliage allows them to readjust to autumn flowering and prevents the leaves from becoming long and thin. In summer, as the stiff stems elongate, the basal leaves disappear and produce lateral branches that will eventually be covered with flowers.