March 2013

Chicago Botanic Garden rates asters


Raydon's Favorite aster got top marks in the Chicago Botanic Garden trial gardens. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

In its well-regarded plant evaluation program, the Chicago Botanic Garden trialed asters between 2003 and 2009 and recently released the findings.

Before we start with recommendations, a brief primer. Asters used to have the scientific name Aster, but plant-naming experts (called taxonomists) say that’s no longer the case. Today, we may find asters listed as Aster, Eurybia and Symphyotrichum, depending on their genetic makeup.

In the CBG trials, seven out of nearly 120 asters received five-star excellent ratings, garnered for the number of flowers, form and ability to withstand insects, diseases and drought. Most asters do best in full sun, moist well-drained soil. Some are tolerant of shade and dry conditions.

Here are the winners:

‘Jindai’ Aster tataricus spreads by underground stems, called rhizomes, to develop 32-inch wide colonies. It will get about 4 feet tall before its violet-blue flowers bloom in late September into late November or early December.

The species wood aster (Eurybia divaricata) and the cultivar ‘Eastern Star’ are among the few asters that tolerate shade ‘Eastern Star’ gets 21 inches tall with a 36-inch spread. The cultivar’s 1 ¼-inch white flowers are almost twice the size of the species. These bloom from late August into November.

‘Snow Flurry’ heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) only gets 8 inches tall but has a 48-inch spread. “No description of the small white flowers does justice to the actual stunning floral display,” writes Richard Hawke, who oversees the CBG evaluations. ‘Snow Flurry’ is also tolerant of dry conditions.

The species of calico aster and the cultivar ‘Lady in Black’ (S. lateriflorum) have white flowers. The cultivar gets 34 inches tall and 50 inches wide with purple foliage.

My favorite is ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (S. oblongifolium), a long-blooming cultivar of a native species. The lavender-blue flowers emerge in August and continue into November. This plant gets about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide.


Sullivan Garden & Patio Show March 23 and 24, 2013

March 23, 2013
12:00 PMto12:45 PM
1:00 PMto1:45 PM
3:00 PMto3:45 PM
March 24, 2013
12:00 PMto12:45 PM
2:00 PMto2:45 PM

Second annual Sullivan Hardware Garden & Patio Show will be March 23 and 24, 2013 at 71st and Keystone. Learn about Big Grene Eggs, Fair Gardening, Edible Gardening, Shade Plants, Successful Container Gardening and more. The free seminars begin at 11 a.m. each day. the first 250 customers get a free pansy (perfect for planting in a pot now for spring color).

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, March 23

11 a.m., Big Green Basics with Paul Schnieders and Dave Betz, kings in the outdoor cooking arena.

Noon, Fairy Gardening with Marilou Buddenbaum from Wildflowers and Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.

1 p.m., Edible Gardening.

2 p.m., Lawns, Gardens and Useless Information with Dick Crum and Pat Sullivan.

3 p.m., Shade Plants with Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.

Sunday, March 24

11 a.m., Breakfast on the Big Green Egg with Paul Schneiders and Dave Betz.

Noon, Successful Container Gardening with Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.

1 p.m., Lawns, Gardens and Useless Information with Dick Crum and Pat Sullivan.

2 p.m., Shade Plants with Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.

For more info: (317) 255-9230