• T.M. O’Shaughnessy

Asters say autumn


PHOTO BY T.M. O’SHAUGHNESSY This gorgeous crimson chrysanthemum has the classic pompom shaped bloom.

It came as a bit of a shock to me recently to realize that, as of September, COVID-19 has had us in its grip for half a year. The reason I realized it were the racks and racks of fresh new pots of flowers for sale outside my local IGA. While standing in line to be allowed in to buy groceries, I suddenly noted that only one family of flowers was on display, telling us that it’s time for fall: asters and chrysanthemums, and in every beautiful autumnal shade.

But how can it be time for these iconic autumn flowers?

Of course, their colours were out of this world. From rich burgundies and purples to russet to yellow and white, it can be hard to choose which asters will preside over your autumn gardens and balconies. They always seem so fresh and healthy and can be a total antidote to the scraggy-ness of a lot of spent annuals and perennials by this point in the summer.

PHOTO BY T.M. O’SHAUGHNESSY The aster called Dragon Blue is a true-blue flower with a vibrant yellow eye.

You really have to admire the aster family, or more specifically, the asteraceae family (of which chrysanthemums are a well-known member), able to cope with hot late summer afternoons or the early cool temperatures that presage winter days. They can do both with aplomb, it seems.

The aster is a unique daisy-like wildflower that's recognizable for its star-shaped flower head. In the language of flowers, asters mean wisdom, and in Greek mythology it is said that the aster was created by the tears of the goddess, Astraea – and the flower was named after her, with ‘aster’ meaning ‘star.’

PHOTO BY T.M. O’SHAUGHNESSY

Purple asters available this season include this one, called Henry I.

The beautiful pots of asters on sale everywhere now will soon find their counterparts in nature, on the side of every roadside in the region and in the wild places that we are still so lucky to be able to enjoy. As they do every fall, wild mauve asters, or ‘Michaelmas Daisies,’ will accompany the coming change in the leaves to red and yellow, orange and bronze. They almost seem to serve as a cushion to gardeners, giving that last beautiful flowering of Mother Nature for the year before the winter that’s coming.

Easy to find are the bronze, yellow, and red asters and chrysanthemums, harbingers of harvest time and Thanksgiving which is only a month and a bit away. But my all time favourite asters are the blue ones, with yellow eyes. They can be hard to find some years, but this week I found them at three different places. The gorgeously deep azure one called ‘Dragon Blue’ is the most popular it seems, but I’ve also seen the lighter, more purple ‘Henry I’ and the paler ‘Wood’s Blue’ as well.

Whatever colour you prefer, as we reluctantly say goodbye to summer, at least we have the beautiful aster to hold our hand.

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