Wednesday, September 07, 2005


We moved into our house last October. Whether the leaves had fallen and herbaceous plants had gone to sleep for the winter, I have no idea. We were focused on the interior of the house. I didn’t start poking around the yard until late winter. By that time, the leafless state of the shrubs and trees had rendered them unidentifiable. The perennials had retreated beneath the earth. I may as well have had a yard full of flora from Mars. I recognized nothing.

In the spring, each emerging plant was a delightful mystery. Some things I recognized immediately, others I found in my Denny McKeowen guide, and the real stumpers required assistance from the internet. My garden journal is full of references to “mystery plants.”

I found one such mystery plant growing on the left side of the front steps. I had to remove some of it when I constructed the raised beds for the climbing hydrangea, but I transplanted the surplus to the right side of the steps. (I have a passion for symmetry.) All season, it grew wildly but did not flower. I was beginning to suspect I had nurtured another weed. As the summer progressed it became lankier and “weedier” looking. Finally, a bloom in early July enabled me to identify it as some sort of aster. The scattered blooms promised a flush of purple in the autumn.

Two months later, the plants are uglier than ever. The rangy stems have flopped open in a circle, leaving the plants’ bases and the earth below exposed. The flowering continues to be far too sporadic to redeem their untidy habit. I may be able to restrain myself from chopping them to bits, but they will definitely be moved to a less conspicuous location by next summer.

Now, the question: what shall I replace them with? The space on the right is 24” x 24” and the space on the left is 24” x 18”. I would like the plant to fit mostly within the space and be two to three feet high. I’d like something that flowers for most of the summer, with blooms in red, yellow, or orange. Fragrance would be nice, but is not a necessity.

I considered miniature roses (you can see the prolific bloom of the miniature in a container on the front steps), but I fear that would be a bit too small. Knockout roses are too big. Daylilies are nice. I like the height, foliage, and flowers, but they begin looking tatty by mid-summer.

Leafing through Gardening in Ohio, I found three possible flowering shrubs of the appropriate size: Goldencup St. Johnswort (yellow flowers, mid June – August, no scent), Summersweet (white to rose flowers, late June – Aug, fragrant), and Virginia Sweetspire (white flowers, May, fragrant). Virginia Sweetspire blooms a bit too early. The fragrance and bloom time of Summersweet are perfect, but white flowers wouldn’t show up well in the proposed location. The Goldencup St. Johnswort is a definite possibility, despite its lack of scent.

I’ll continue my research, but any suggestions are welcome. The asters have to go. I liked them so much better when they were a mystery.


Blogger SmilingJudy said...

I wonder if you have to pinch back asters, as you do with mums, in order to get decent blooms at the right time.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Sylvana said...

You can pinch back asters. I would suggest getting a different variety if these aren't blooming well though.

You might also want to think about Autumn Joy sedum or Purple Emperor sedum

2:30 PM  
Blogger Zoey said...

the tall fall asters are definately not a plant you want in the foreground. As you said, the bottom foot or so of the stems look terribly ragged from July on. You can cut them back to keep them shorter, but I have found that the bloom is delayed 2 - 3 weeks. I would remove them and plant them in back of something that is at least two feet tall to hide the ugly part. I am planning a post about them as soon as I get some nice blooms (mine are just starting). In fact today I posted a picture of one opening.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Japanese anemone for gorgous fall bloom. The clusters of foliage are strong and tidy all summer, and then they throw up flowers... oh... right about now.

They will spread, but not ferociously, and you can give the bits away that you trim with your shovel in the spring.

They are one of my current favorites. They like slightly damp sites, but this drought we are having? Hasn't phased them a bit.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Oh, and companion plant the anemone with small spring ephemerals - the larger plant is late to appear, and just about the time your bulb foliage is looking tatty, the anemone should be making an appearance.

All just suggestions, of course!

6:33 PM  
Blogger OldRoses said...

In the front of my house, the asters have flopped all over my sidewalk. In the backyard, they took over an entire flowerbed. I just can't seem to win with them.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Adi said...

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8:14 AM  

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