Monday, October 18, 2010

The aster greets us as we pass....

The aster greets us as we pass
With her faint smile.
 (Sarah Helen Whitman, American poet, from A Day of the Indian Summer), found at

I just knew someone must have written a poem about these beautiful autumn flowers, one of my very favorites. And "faint smile" is fitting, at least when compared to more flamboyant fall blossoms like dahlias or marigolds. On a recent dazzling day in the garden colony, though, I felt like they were laughing gaily rather than smiling faintly.

The most common type are the tall, light pink-purple asters seen in the photos above and below, found along fences and borders all over our garden colony:

There's also a lovely variety of reddish asters that don't get quite as high:

And just look at the riotous colors in this garden:

The owner of the allotment in the photo below invited me in so I could photograph from a more advantageous angle.

My all-time favorites, though, are the very pale, almost white asters in my title photo. These asters belong to my neighbor, and I am fortunate to have them along our mutual border, under the old gnarled apple tree. Below is the full-sized picture. What you can't see here are the hundreds of bees on the blossoms.

So of course one of the first things I planted last fall after acquiring the allotment were asters. I purchased four plants that were labeled as dwarf asters ("Kissenaster"). Here's my daughter planting the ones she picked out:

I'm sorry to say that two of the four plants were immediately devoured and killed off by slugs. The other two survived and are now blooming this fall. But they aren't dwarfs. I had intended them to form a pillow of blossoms below the roses, but instead they now intermingle with them, also fine.

My neighbor told me that once asters get to a certain size the slugs leave them alone. And indeed in the spring I watched the slugs happily eating the leaves of both his and my asters, but after a while they stopped and the plants did fine. In fact, they seem to already be proliferating.

Happy autumn gardening, everyone.


  1. What a great neighbor you have Barbara! Beautiful Aster shots!! Yours are coming along nicely too, looking lovely along with your roses. ;>)

  2. They are such perfect little flowers and drought tolerant. I love them all! Those colors are simply awesome!

  3. Dear Barbara, The Asters you show here are certainly very pretty and look to be smiling broadly rather than faintly to meThe white ones are also my favourite - they look so fresh for this late season. i have very mixed fortunes with Asters but they are difficult to beat for flower power in Autumn.

  4. Hallo Barbara, in Eurer Gartenanlage gibt es ja wirklich sehr viele Astern! Bei uns habe wohl ich die meisten dieser wunderbaren Pflanzen, die so gut mit meinen Dahlien harmonieren. Ich versuche alles so lange wie möglich bunt zu halten im Garten und mag alle Spätblüher. Die weiße Aster Deines Nachbarn ist besonders schön, denn sie wirkt sehr edel. Aber nun bald ist es vorbei mit dem Gärtnern und der Garten fällt in Winterschlaf.... aber im Pflanzenschauhaus und Schmetterlingshaus im Luisenpark hört der Sommer ja nie auf;-)) Ich wünsche Dir noch viel Freude im Garten ob mit oder ohne Schnecken. Herzliche Grüße von Luzia.

  5. I'm so impressed with the height of the purple asters, and they all seem to bloom so prolifically! We have some native asters here, but as they're adapted to thrive in a dry climate, they tend to be quite short and compact. The mass of asters along the mutual border with your neighbor looks like absolute bee heaven!

  6. Hi Barbara, my first time here. I've never been to Germany either. Your asters are all beautiful and awesome in whatever color they are in. We have some small asters but have to be treated with GAs first to bloom, maybe they are either photoperiodic or thermo sensitive. I also love that autumny-colored shrub at the back of your neighbor's garden, so lovely. thank you.

  7. We have asters or Michaelmas daisies growing on our plot and they are providing a great source of nectar for bees and a few late butterflies. Often they spoil with mildew but not this year.
    They are also a flower of my childhood - I used to pick bunches from the garden to take to school!!

  8. I have mixed feelings about asters. I like the tall ones but not the small. On the other hand, the tall ones are likely to get tatty sooner.


  9. Wonderful photos! I personally like the taller varieties the most because I just think they are showier. My mom loves "Kirmesblumen" of all kinds and adds a few new ones to our collection every fall.

  10. I had my problems with slugs. I used beer traps at first, but later, pine needles. They certainly dislike that type of surface. The problem is seventy five percent solved.

    Another measure, since my urban garden allows for it, is to relocate plants abused by snails/slugs.

    At any rate, you have a wonderful garden. I have warm memories of Deutshland, food, beer, wine, women, music and its people. Thirty years ago I lived in Ansbach and later Nellingen while in the US Army.

    Good luck.

  11. Hello Barbara,

    I am amazed at the height of the asters! they look like they're on steroids. :) We have a number of varieties currently blooming, but several feet is as high as they go. Lovely range of color.

    By the way, you asked about the hawk photos: 'how do you do it'? Over the past 16 years we have planted so many trees and shrubs and built a few pergolas/trellis.. created a rather dense environment, and the birds have slowly come to visit, this year more than last.

    And the pergola happens to be a favourite spot for many to perch, not far outside my studio window and in full view when something decides to visit. All I do is have the camera sitting beside me and hope that I can respond quickly enough and have these old eyes focus well enough to identify what is there. ;)

  12. Thanks for all your comments, I really appreciate it.

    Carol, yes, I love the late fall combination of asters and roses. But it was serendipity that it turned out that way!

    Tina, I never once watered the asters, although that's not saying much in this wet climate.

    Edith, the white asters are so lovely, I'm surprised not more people plant them. I tried and they were the ones devoured by slugs, so maybe that's the answer.

    Luzia, Du hast Recht und ich habe den nächsten Besuch im Schmetterlingshaus des Luisenparks aufgehoben für die Zeit, in der es im Garten nicht mehr so viel zu tun gibt.

    Clare, maybe the asters here get so high because of the mild, very wet climate. I just looked at your latest bumble bee post - looks like bee heaven in your garden, too.

    Andrea, thanks for your visit and comment. Asters are easy to grow here and proliferate, so the climate must be right.

    GLA, I didn't know the name Michaelmas daisies for these lovely flowers! What a lovely name.

    Esther, I'm going to keep an eye out to see when all my neighbors cut back their asters. Maybe they do it before they get too tatty.

    CL, yours is the second new name for this flower I've learned - Kirmesblume. Very fitting, as is Michaelmas daisy.

    Antigonum Cajan, thanks for your visit and comment. I've heard about pine needles before, must try it. I've also tried relocation of endangered plants, and in fact it helped with some lobelia I moved further from the edge of the forest. Glad to hear you have good memories of Germany.

    Di, asters here can get up to 5 feet tall. Thanks for the info on how you photograph your hawks. I guess creating perches and places they feel safe in is your secret. I tried for weeks to get a photo of the blue tits nesting on our cottage wall, but to no avail. They had lost their shyness, but are so fast and don't like to perch for long.

  13. Dear Barbara, Wow! What a wonderful array of asters around your plot. I have had no luck with them, but love them never-the-less. Pam x

  14. Barbara, I'm a little late getting to this post, but I just had to say how much I love the asters. I planted 2 asters in my garden this past spring (both blue and predicted to reach about 4 feet in height). One of them got munched on repeatedly by the resident woodchuck, never got more than 18 inches tall and never bloomed; but the other got to be about 3 feet tall and bloomed nicely. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they do next year. My woodchucks, like your slugs, sometimes leave the bigger, taller plants alone, so I have hopes that the asters will be less interesting to them next year. -Jean