Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Each season of flowers has its stars. The fall asters are among the loveliest blooms you will find. Their name comes from the Greek word for star (astron), which refers to the star-like flower heads.
America is blessed with many kinds of late blooming asters. Asters are also found in many other areas of the world.
Though the native asters in America come in different colors, my favorites by far are the violets and purples. Their centers are usually yellow. These stems offer a change from the hot colors of summer.
Typically, asters are used as a filler flower. These are perfect for fall bouquets.
The size of aster flowers can vary from one kind to another. Usually, they’re around an inch or so across. These can be either single or double.
Two of the most common wild asters are the New England and the New York. Despite the names, both occur over much of the U.S. The New England blooms are purple, while those of the New York are more of a blue-violet. Cultivated forms of each are available, which serves to broaden the color palette to all shades of pink and purple as well as white. There are literally hundreds of cultivated varieties available
Both of these species tend to be three or four feet tall. Sometimes, they can even reach five feet in good growing conditions.
The New England aster often begins to bloom several weeks earlier than the New York. It can be as early as mid to late August.
There is one other wild aster species that is especially nice. This is called the late purple aster. It is also known as the sky-drop aster. The name of this aster is somewhat misleading. In fact, it begins to bloom in mid-summer—earlier than the New York and New England. Late purple aster is native to much of the East as well as parts of the Midwest. The violet blooms are 1˝ inches in diameter.
In floral designs, the purple asters are often combined with pink or white blooms of all sorts.
These fall asters are perennials. The China aster is annual. However, it isn’t really a true aster.
Harvest aster blossoms as soon as one-fourth to one-half of the blooms in the flower heads are open.
The vase life can vary very slightly from one kind to another. The cultivated New York asters will last somewhat longer than most others, perhaps up to 12 days.
A floral preservative is recommended for aster stems.