Thursday, September 29, 2011

Asters! What's Not to Love?

Before I get to the point of this post, I want to say, "No Wonder!"  No wonder I've been confused while looking online for descriptions and the botanical names of the asters I have!!  According to my new October 2011 Garden Gate magazine (my most favorite magazine in the world!!), the genus Aster is being split into different genera.  Here are the new names:   Symphyotrichum, lonactis, Eurybia, Seriocarpus, Doellingeria, Ampelaster, Oclemena

How in the world does one discriminate the different types??  Oh, well . . .

I've admired asters for a few years, but hadn't tried growing any until I purchased 'Alert' a couple of years ago.  What a beauty!!  Last year, I purchased 'Wood's Blue,' and a white variety that I shared with my Aunt MEA.  This year, she shared a portion with me.  Wish I remembered the name . . .  :-)

The following photos were taken last night in the golden light of the sunset.

Aster 'Alert'

Aster ‘Woods Blue’

And, for now, "Unnamed."
If I had more space, I'd add a few more asters.  They truly are pretty, and they are butterfly magnets.    They really like full sun (though they'll tolerate 6 hours of sun with some shade),
'Alert' is the tallest, so far.  It reaches at least 18" or so in height.  'Wood's Blue' is a compact little plant.  It is only about 12" or so in height.  The "White" has only recent joined the gardens here.  It is not more than 18" tall this year.

Garden Gate tells me I don't need to feed asters.  An annual 1" layer of compost is plenty.  Fertilizer helps the plants produce more foliage than flowers.

Crowded asters are susceptible to powdery mildew and rust, so plant them to allow for space at maturity.  There are cultivars that are disease-resistant these days.

Garden Gate recommends the following asters that are most successful for looking good all season:  #1. Smooth aster - Aster laevis (Symphyotrichum laeve) 'Blue Bird':  Blue-violet flowers mid-summer to fall; 3-4 feet tall, 2-3 feet wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 3-8 and heat tolerant in AHS zones 8-1;
 (photo taken from on-line source)

#2. White wood aster - Aster divaricatus (Eurybia divaricata) 'Eastern Star' (also known as 'Raiche'): White flowers summer to fall; 12-30 inches tall, 18-30 inches wide, cold-hardy in USDA zones 3-8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8-1;   
(photo taken from on-line source)

#3. Aster - Aster novi-belgii (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) 'Wood's Purple': Lavender flowers in fall; 12-18 inches tall and wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 4-8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8-1.
 (photo taken from on-line source)

I've noticed 'Alert' can get tall (18-20") and somewhat spindly.  Garden Gate has just enlightened me with regard to this problem!  I can stake the plant early in the season by placing upright branches around and over the plant.  It will grow through these branches and stay upright,  OR  you might want to keep the plants compact by cutting them back in early summer.  To cut them back, wait until the plants are about 12" tall and cut them back to 6" in height.  If, in a month's time, you feel they are still too tall, you can cut them back again by a quarter.  Co not cut-back later than mid-July, as that's when the plants begin setting buds.

If, after a few years, your aster has fewer flowers (and perhaps the center has died), you will need to divide the plant. (It's suggested every two or three years.)  The most successful season for dividing seems to be Spring.  The clump may even fall apart as you lift it out of the hole.  The size of the pieces doesn't matter as long as each root has green growth on the top.  Plant each section at the same level they were growing previously.  (Or pot them and share them with friends!)

One more piece of information . . . I'm led to understand that one can grow asters easily from seed.

Sow Aster seeds early in the season, and cover lightly with soil. Water thoroughly once. They germinate easily and will grow quickly, producing their first of a continual display of blooms by mid-summer.

Aster does not do well in wet soils. They do, however, like moist soil.  Once established, they will withstand dry periods, needing water during extended droughts.   (A good thing, as these flowers are blooming nicely and WE'VE had Drought conditions this summer!)

Nothing "shady" here...
just me! ha. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Little PhotoPeach Slideshow... Hope You Enjoy It!

Creating a Garden for Hospital Patients on PhotoPeach

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friday Morning Began at the Mulch Pile!

What a Great Way to begin a day!

But before I could spread the mulch,
I needed to put my compost pile's "Black Gold" to good use!

Yes, it was a challenge to sift, given the extremely dry conditions around here.
I dug big clods of dry dirt onto the sifter.
(The pulverized dirt will fall through a double layer of hardware cloth;
the top layer being slightly less wide than the box and free on one end.)

This is what remained after the rest had fallen through the mesh layers.

A fun exercise was to flip those remaining little clods onto the
 other side of the compost pile!

(Below you'll see the results of the first "flip.")

Yes, I continued to work until I'd nearly filled my wheelbarrow three times.
The "Black Gold" was distributed over the Woodland Walk, the Big Backyard Shady Bed,
and the small Bed by the Shed.

It wasn't until later in the afternoon (after the beds had been sufficiently watered)
that the mulch began to be distributed.  I still have quite a bit to put out... but

it's FUN

and I want to take my time! 

Nothing "shady" here but the shade!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Plants, Mulch, Water

I went to water the garden yesterday... no rain since that we received a couple of weeks ago (two days each with 3/8" of rain).

We'd watered well last Friday and again on Monday during our plantings, so
yesterday (Friday the 24th) I watered again.
But who's that little fellow over by the wheel?

"Sneakily yours,"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Next to the Last Report . . . JCHC Garden!

 Did you say you wanted to see the most recent progress on the 
Hospital Garden?
 Wonderful help this afternoon!

This young man is planting peonies and helping
with the garden - in memory of his Grandfather.

 Heave, Ho!

Setting posts

Putting up the fence

Decorating . . .

 Houses in place!

and  Tools-At-Rest!

SG is tired tonight . . . :-)
But it's a good tired!

Friday, September 16, 2011

High Energy Group!

 With all the right garden tools!  Some of us could use gloves.... ;-)
Do you see 'Autumn Joy' sedum, daylilies, 'Wood's Light Blue' aster being planted in center,
'Firewitch' dianthus at the right with Siberian iris and 'Moonshine' Yarrow to be planted at the left?

Watering Karl - 'Karl Foerster' grass, that is! Korean lilac behind the watering can,
'Green Velvet'Buxus (boxwood) (thanks for the hint, Patrick!),

 'Walker's Low' nepata (catmint) at left/foreground
with sedum and asclepias (Butterfly Milkweed) directly behind,
the asters at right and 'Matrona' sedum in front of the daylilies.

All we had to do was to dig the holes, water, plant and re-water again (and again!).

A little help from our friends is always a good idea!

'City of Lyon' and 'Ernest Markham' clematis will share a trellis.  There's 'Husker Red' penstemon off J's right shoulder and iris at the front right.

 Mulch!   Bring it on!!!

 and spread it out!!

Fun times - perhaps some of us should have been wearing aprons?
Gardening Version of American Gothic!

As we were having our photos taken, it began to sprinkle.  We're still experiencing a gentle rain.
Thank you, Lord!!!

Monday morning I'll get a load of mulch.  Monday afternoon a couple of friends will join me and we'll finish the garden plantings by adding 3 peonies, 6 'Stella d'Oro' daylilies and a few 'Bertram Anderson' lowgrowing stonecrop sedum.

Then we'll be ready for the concrete edging border and the 8'Lx 6'H fence panel in the back!  There will be three sweet birdhouses mounted on the fence.  (Wouldn't it be nice if the fence was in place next week, too?)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Earth -Breaking News!!

This is called "Taming the Dirt Pile!"  It was a Wonderful pile of soil, but it needed to be Tamed! :-)

Please click on the Above Photo to see the post on "Wha's Happening!"  This is just the beginning, folks.  This little garden bed area has been in the planning stages since early last Spring.

We've gone through Long-lasting, Rainy season all Spring, Cold - Wet June, HOT - DRY July and (so far) August.  But there's a limit to how long we gardeners could wait!!

The idea for this bed was conceived during last Winter's Master Gardener class.  I was able to take the reins (so to speak), by planning and organizing.  It's coming together.  Yesterday (Monday) was the First Big Step in tilling the dirt.  Today a nice load of dry sheep manure was added.  Measuring (and estimated cost) for very practical concrete edging was done, also.

My next assignment?  Add a trellis today!

Workdays:  Friday at 7:30 a.m., Saturday at 7:30 a.m., and Monday at 4:30 p.m.

Look out - it's going to be Great!!!

Nothing 'Shady' lurking about.... just me.  :-)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What is this?

 A sweet friend of mine gave me some little bulbs that had divided.  She had received them from her sister.  We don't know what it is...

(***Thanks to Nan Ondra, we have a gloriosa lily (Gloriosa rothschildiana or Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana')!  Thanks, Nan!  I just looked up the information.  Now I need to read it!!)

 The plants look like this:

 The leaves look like this:

And the flower looks like this:
Great, isn't it????