A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Autumn Color

Hardy mums aren't hardy. Not even in New Jersey. I had to learn that the hard way. I began gardening in zone 5. When I moved south to zone 6, so many flowers that weren't hardy in zone 5, were hardy here. I was sure that mums would also survive the relatively mild winters. Every year, I bought mums. And every year, they didn't make it through the winter and I had to buy more.

Enough was enough. I switched to asters.

As my interest in heirloom flowers grew, I was pleased to learn that chrysanthemums, originally from China and Japan, are a relatively new addition to the fall garden. Prior to their introduction, asters, or Michaelmas Daisies (another one of those common names that I couldn't identify for a long time), were used for fall color. In fact, it's only since the introduction of chrysanthemums that orange and yellow are considered the colors of fall. Originally, purple was the color of autumn.

I grow one heirloom aster, a China aster (Callistephus chinensis) which is an annual. It was introduced at the beginning of the 20th century. The Crego mix in my garden has purple, pink and white flowers.

I've been adding more native plants to my gardens the last few years. Asters are no exception. I bought a native New England aster (Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome') at Well Sweep Herb Farm. Not surprisingly, it is also purple.

I love the soft colors of the asters. They match the prevailing colors of my spring and summer flowers and provide a better continuity of color through autumn than the typical oranges and yellows of the (un)hardy mums.


At 5:46 AM, Blogger Carol said...

Love the history lesson. I am waiting for my Michaelmas daises to bloom, some wonderful passalongs from my aunt. And I do have a mum that has come back for 3 or 4 years now, but guess what? It's a light purple color. I hope it is blooming next weekend for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on the 15th!

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

At 1:55 PM, Blogger No Rain said...

The asters are lovely. I really love the bright pink ones.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Carolyn gail said...

I love the asters, too, but perennial mums are hardy in Zone 5. I don't mean the mums that you buy as annuals each year. 'Clare Curtis' is a beautiful pink daisy-like mum with a yellow center that has been blooming in my garden since late July and then there's the hardy Korean mum that is a lovely apricot. They're hard to find but better garden centers usually have them.


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