Lasting Landscapes by Carol

October Skies

Despite the overwhelming number of tasks facing gardeners like me in the fall, I adore the autumn season and the blooms that come with it. You heard me right – amazing blooms in the fall provided by Asters, one of my favorite perennials.

‘October Skies’ Aster (Symphyotricum oblongifolium) is a wonderful variety that grows about two feet tall and wide. I planted some on my sunny bank last fall and cut them back by half in June to help ensure a dense habit. Today they are putting on quite a show.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Aster ‘October Skies’ planted en masse.

‘Raydon’s Favorite’ is very similar to October Skies but in my experience is a bit taller and darker in color, topping out around three feet. Raydon’s Favorite also blooms later than October Skies, which helps to ensure a long-lasting flower show. Both October Skies and Raydon’s Favorite are colorful, deer resistant groundcovers.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Aster Raydon’s Favorite pairs beautifully with Tricyrtis.

Recently I was introduced to another Aster – Aster ericoides ‘Snow Flurry,’ a diminutive form reaching several inches high with petite, white blooms. Snow Flurry will spread to a two-foot mass and is lovely in the front of the border or in a rock garden.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Aster Snow Flurry has a compact habit with pristine miniature blooms.

Got shade?  No worries. There is an Aster for you too.  Aster divaricatus thrives in my dry shade garden and spreads around readily. If you have limited space, why not choose Ampelaster carolinianus, a climbing aster that happily rambles on a trellis or a fence. Mine bloomed in the winter last year.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Aster divaricatus
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Ampelaster carolinianus climbs on structures and blooms late

Maybe you are lucky enough to have a large, sunny spot and room for a meadow. Aster laevis is a great option for that situation. Pops of purple and blue on three-foot stems really stand out among the seed heads of grasses.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

All of these Asters are native to North America so what’s not to like? If you haven’t already introduced Asters to your landscape, I encourage you to do so. If you are already in love with Asters – please comment and let me know which ones you adore and why!


Seeing the Forest and the Trees

Trees are my focus for this month. How can we not think about trees in October? They are turning beautiful hues and showing us how nice it can be to let go. 

Trees have also been on my mind because I recently attended a lecture given by Joan Maloof, author and founder of the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN). The mission of the OGFN is to connect people with nature by creating a national network of protected, mature, and publicly-accessible native forests. 
The organization was created because many of the old-growth forests were being logged, developed or otherwise destroyed. The OGFN strives to preserve the remaining old-growth forests in thousands of counties in the United States so all generations can experience a real forest and its native biodiversity.  
Joan’s lecture was given at Haverford College, which hosts an arboretum and some amazing specimen trees. After her lecture I felt inspired and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to sit underneath an elm tree that was a direct descendent of the Penn Treaty Tree. What a magical experience that was. Incredibly peaceful and calming. A ‘stop and smell the roses’ kind of moment.
Official designation for the Haverford Elm

Sitting under the Penn Treaty Elm

Looking up into the branches

Another amazing tree I saw recently was located in Tarrytown, NY at the Lyndhurst estate, former home of New York City mayor William Paulding, Jr., merchant George Merritt, and railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Check out this awe inspiring weeping beech tree! You can barely see me in the photo. 

Lyndhurst’s enormous weeping Beech

My next stop to admire trees was Boise, ID – known as the City of Trees. Boise is set in the foothills, which typically consist of grasses and sagebrush, not trees. Early homeowners were encouraged to improve their property with shade trees, which they did. 
The tree-lined Boise River

Trees all over the world have great lessons to teach. I’m certainly not the first to observe this fact. Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench loves trees so much she produced a documentary called ‘My Passion for Trees’. Filmed over the course of a year, the documentary studied trees throughout the seasons and helped Judi use science to tell the stories the trees can’t tell on their own. Judi saw trees in a new light and learned how they communicate with each other and deal with adversity. For Judi and for me, trees aren’t just trees. They are a community of living things who support each other and help us as human beings. 

I hope you’ll join me in living life according to some advice from a tree:

Advice from a Tree

Stand up tall and proud,

Sink your roots into the earth,

Be content with your natural beauty,

Go out on a limb,

Drink plenty of water,

Remember your roots,

Enjoy the view!

Ilan Shamir