Fall Color, Georgia Style
Georgia Aster (Aster georgianus) is a fabulous plant with its deep velvet purple flowers that bloom during October and November. It attracts all varieties of bees in our garden! This year we added three more plants because it is so spectacular. Sadly, the Georgia aster is diminishing rapidly in its native habitat and is only known in four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama). It is a state protected plant and a candidate for the federally threatened list. It is not often you see it blooming in the wild anymore. You can buy them at native plants sales (local sources: Georgia Native Plant Society, Nearly Native Nursery and Georgia State Botanical Garden) and if you live in its growing area they like dry-red clay banks with well drained soil so they make an outstanding addition to those challenging spots in the garden.
Another really fun plant, if you have the space, is the narrow-leaf sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) also known as the swamp sunflower. It gets really, REALLY tall. Reaching up to 12 or more feet to the sky. I have been told that if you cut it back in early July it will still bloom but not as tall. I might try that next year with one of my plants, but I love seeing its blooms against the sky. Plus it is great for those larger butterflies that fly higher. In October last year the 7 monarch butterflies that stopped over in our garden on their southward migration to Mexico spent a lot of time on them. You can see my post on the visiting Monarchs at Seven is the Magic Number. This summer the silvery checkerspot butterfly hosted on this sunflower and I had lots of caterpillars munching the leaves.
Another great aster that is just starting to bloom is the Downy aster (Symphyotrichum pilosus). This plant likes to grow in disturbed areas and there are several plants that have happily found a home along the transition area along the road in front of our wooded lot. It attracts a variety of pollinators from bees to flies to several sizes of butterflies. White is a good color for night time pollinators such as moths. This aster seems to serve both day and nigh pollinators.
One of my favorite grasses that shines in fall is the Pink Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). It is a great addition to our hill garden and along the dry creek bed. Insects love to hang out on the stems.
And, the light dances through the inflorescence and provides fabulous color and texture to the garden.
Another member of the aster family is Solidago or goldenrod. The Latin word 'solido' means to make whole and this herb was used in the ancient world as a healing remedy. Native American's called this plant "sun medicine".
It grows successfully in many soil conditions and is found blooming naturally and prolifically all along the roadside this time of year. It is a magnet for a variety of beneficial insects. This is the site alongside our property where it grows freely up to 8 feet high. I think it is lovely and the golden yellow makes me so happy when I drive or walk by it.
Can you believe goldenrod is considered a weed by most Americans? It only started being accepted as a garden plant in the 1980s. It almost achieved fame in the early 1900s. During WWI the price of rubber sky rocketed. At the request of his friend Henry Ford, Thomas Edison was asked to find a domestic source to make rubber. He experimented with goldenrod, honeysuckle and milkweed. He found goldenrod showed the greatest potential as a way to produce rubber which it contains naturally in its leaves. Edison created a fertilization and cultivation process to maximize the rubber content in these plants. This project was never brought into production because the government decided to invest in new German technology that created rubber synthetically from coal and petroleum products. So goldenrod returned to its ordinary existence.
Today, I am joining Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, graciously hosted by May Dreams Gardens.