Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Aromatic Aster

Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) is a beautiful
low-growing aster which blooms for over 4 weeks in the piedmont of NC.

According to Gardening with Native Plants of the Southeast by Sally Wasowski (one of my favorite gardening books of all time), aromatic or shale aster grows on shale barrens and limestone outcrops from zones 4 to 8. Shale barrens occur along a band of Devonian shale in the ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. Quite an inhospitable environment, but in the garden aromatic aster likes acid as well as lime and appreciates a rich soil. It grows much wider than high, usually only topping out at 1 to 2 feet, but will climb into shrubs to obtain a much greater height than usual. The foliage is sticky with a sweet resinous scent, like pine sap.

I'm a NC Botanical Garden member and participate in the Wildflower Seed Distribution Program, which is how I acquired this plant. I managed to grow one aromatic aster from seed, and now I probably have at least a dozen good-sized plants that are divisions from that original seedling.

The flowers have that beautiful blue-violet color and even catches the eye even when driving at 55 mph. The color appears more blue than lavender in low light. I have read that once pollinated the center of the flowers changes from yellow to brown.

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