SEPTEMBER FLOWER OF THE MONTH

There are two flowers for the month of September; one is the Aster and the other is the Morning Glory. 

We are going to look at the Aster.  Part of the Sunflower family, it has a central core of tiny flowerheads surrounded by tiny long petals making it a composite flower.  The Aster family is a wildflower with more than 600 species of which 180 are recognized today as true Asters.  For the past 4000 years these flowers were cultivated as ornaments.  The color and shape of the flower depends on the variety of the Aster, with some producing flat daisy-like blooms and others forming full multi-petaled blossoms with colors and sizes so one flower type for all gardens and occasions.

Being part of the Sunflower family, it can be found in the wilds of Southern Europe and North America.  Asters are also known as Starworts, Frost Flowers and Michaelmas Daisies.  The Aster did play an important role in medicine.  Asters represent love, faith, and wisdom.

This late-flowering form is at its best in September.  Sometimes the Aster will bloom into October.  One of the Asters produces large pinnacles of bold, pink flower with a caikee pink eye on long stems.  A pleasant antidote to the prevailing late-season yellow.

The Aster is a perennial flowering plant.  Its family has been narrowed down to 180 species, all but one is restricted to Eurasia, the many species formally in the Aster family are now in other genera of the tribe Asteraceae.

The New World species have been reclassified in the genera; Almutaster, Canadanthus, Doellingeria, Eucaphalus, Eurybia, Ionatis, O’ligoneuron, Oreostemma, Sericocarpus and Symphyotrichum.  They are still treated within the same tribe, Asteraceae.  Even with the taxonomic change, they are still referred to as “Asters” or Michaelmas daisies, because of their bloom period.

Common species that were moved:

Aster breweri (now Eucephalus brewer) Brewer’s Aster

Aster chezuensis (now Heteropappus chejuensis) Jeju Aster

Aster cordifolius (now Symphyotrichum cordifolium) Blue Wood Aster

Aster dumosus (now symphyotrichum dumosum) Rice Button Aster, Bushy Aster

To name a few.

 

In the United Kingdom, there is only one native member of the genus, Aster tripolium, the Sea Aster.  The species formally known as Aster linosyris (GoldiLocks) is now Galatella linosyris.  Aster Alpinus subsp. Vierhapperi is the only species native to North America.  Many species and a variety of hybrids and varieties are popular as garden plants because they are beautiful, attractive and colorful.  Asters can grow in all hardiness zones.

HISTORY

Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of China Asters.  Monticello is where he cultivated several varieties.

Victorians loved the Aster.  In Victorian England, Floriography (the exchange of flowers), was all the rage, with their wide range of colors, the Asters were the perfect medium.

Victorians in England practiced floriography a coded communication through the exchange of flowers.  It became the rage.  Asters with all their colors, were perfect.  Purple Asters represented wisdom and royalty.  White Asters represented purity, perfection and innocence.  Red Asters stood for devotion and pink Asters were love.

Kingdom

Plantae

Division

Magnoliophyte

Class

Magnoliopsida

Order

Asterales

Family

Asteraceae

Genus

Aster

 

Asters have been called Starworts, Michaelmas Daisies or Frost Flowers.

Asters are easy to grow in average soil but require full sun.  Most Aster plants are perennial, but a few are biennials or annuals.

While the fall is a sad time for flowers, Asters provide color and beauty.  They are part of the Sunflower family.  They resemble the daisies because of their yellow centers and ray-like petals.  These plants are used for their strong medicinal properties in some parts of the world.

With the many species and varieties of Asters; the plant’s height can range from 8 inches to 8 feet depending on the type.

Asters are a rich source of nectar, and because they flower at the height of Monarch Butterfly migration season, they are a frequent way station.  The Aster is also a bee magnet, so those with bee allergies should plant them away from walk ways through the garden.  They also attract flies.  Asters make great cut flowers for all arrangements.  Aromatic Asters are heat and cold hardy and derive their names from the light scent produced when crushed.

PLANTING

The best time to plant Asters is in the mid to late spring.  You can start Aster seeds indoors during the winter.  Since there are so many varieties of Asters and the plant’s height can range from 8” to 8’, choose according to placement in your garden.  They can be used in rock gardens or in the back of lower fall blooming flowers.  Asters attract bees and butterflies, providing pollinators with an important late-season supply of nectar.

Asters prefer a climate with cool, moist summers – especially cool night temperatures.  If you live in a warmer climate, plant Asters in an area that avoids the hot mid-day sun.

Please select a site with full to partial sun.  The soil should be moist, but well drained and loamy.  You should mix compost into the soil prior to planting.

STARTING SEEDS

When starting from seed remember germination can be uneven.  You can sow your seeds in pots or flats.  You should keep these planted seeds in a refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks to simulate winter dormancy.  Sow seeds on inch deep.  After 4 to 6 weeks put seeds in a sunny spot in your home.  Plant outside after frost danger has passed.

The best time to plant young Asters is mid to late spring.  Fully grown, potted Asters can be planted as soon as they become available.  Space 1 to 3 feet apart depending on the type and how large it’s expected to grow.  Give these new Asters plenty of water at time of planting.  Add mulch after planting to keep soil cool and prevent weeds.  Put a thin layer of balanced fertilizer around plants every spring to encourage vigorous growth.

If you receive less than 1 inch of rain water a week, water your plants.  Most Asters are moisture sensitive.  If the Aster plants have too much or too little moisture, most often they will lose their lower foliage or not flower well.  Watch your Asters for any stress, change your watering methods.

Stake the tall varieties, to help keep them from falling over.  Pinch back Asters once or twice in early summer to promote bushier growth and more blooms.  Cut Asters back in the winter after foliage has died.  You can leave this foliage if you want to add some off-season interest to your garden.

Aster flowers that mature fully my reseed themselves, however, some Asters may not bloom true.

Divide every 2 to 3 years in spring to maintain your plant’s vigor and flower quality.

Asters are susceptible to powdery mildew, rusts, white smut, leaf spots, stem cankers, aphids, Treponeme mites, slugs, and snails and Nematodes (worms).

FUN FACTS

The ancient Greeks believed the Aster flower came to be when the Greek god Astraea was saddened by how few stars were in the sky.  One night she was so upset that she cried.  As the tears streamed down her face and hit the ground they turned into the beautiful star-shaped Aster flowers.  In Greece, Aster means star.  Greeks incorporated Asters into the wreaths they made to lay on the Temple alters as a tribute to the Greek gods and goddesses.

Another interpretation is that Asters were created when Virgo scattered stardust over the Earth.

Michaelmas was celebrated in medieval England, (abolished in the 18th century), the Welsh and Irish also had celebrated Michaelmas.

The Farmer’s Almanac suggests that Asters were known as symbols of powerful love, devotion, faith and wisdom.

Some people believed the Aster represented elegance and refinement.

All participants of the Hungarian revolution that took place at the beginning of the 20th century in Budapest were wearing Asters.  This event is also known as “Aster Revolution” today

In the past, Asters were placed on soldiers’ graves symbolizing a desire for the war to end.

Ancient legends suggest that people believed that magical fairies slept under the Aster’s petals after they closed at sunset.

Asters are supposed to bring good luck.

ASTER FACTS

Aster has an erect stem with woody base.  It can reach from 8” to 8’ in height depending on species.

Asters produce simple leaves that can be long, thin or lanceolate-shaped.  Leaves of some species are serrated on the edges, they are dark green in color and alternately arranged on the stem.

Aster develops flower head consists of 300 small flowers located centrally and numerous petals (ray florets) on the periphery.  Miniature flowers always yellow, while surrounding petals can be white, purple, blue, lavender, red, or pink in color.

Yellow-colored, miniature tubular flowers contain both types of reproductive organs (biserual florets).  Beautifully colored petals, or ray florets, on the periphery of the flower head are usually sterile.

Fruit of the Aster is achene equipped with wings which facilitate dispersal of seed by wind.

Aster propagates via seed or division of the stem.  Seed starts to germinate 15 to 30 days after plantings.

Asters are also known as “frost flowers”, because florists often use these flowers during the autumn and winter for floral arrangements.

Asters are supposed able to notice weather changes.  The closed petals are a sign of imminent rain.

Aster flowers are associated with the 20th wedding anniversary.

When you send Asters to someone, you are saying, “Take care of yourself for me”.

Most species of Aster are perennial plants (life span: more than 2 years) and only a few species are annual (life span: 1 year) or biennial (life span: 2 years)

Flowers of some Aster species are used in Treatment of migraines, common cold, muscle spasms, and sciatica.

Hope you have enjoyed our Aster.

Carolyn Surdel

Enfield Garden Club

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