Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From Russia, with love

This photograph has taught me a lesson.  Label your pictures the instant they come off the camera and into your computer.  I am sorry to say that of the 14,344 digital photos I've taken of gardens and flowers, probably less than 5% are labeled.  Not only do I attribute this to procrastination and laziness, but I always thought rather proudly that I would remember everything.  So not true.

I kept passing over the thumbnail of this photo, thinking this was Aster carolinianus, the climbing aster.  That's because if you don't look closely, it could appear that this is a single rambling plant.

But the moment I clicked to make it bigger, I realized I was wrong. The climbing aster is pink. Then I spied the big leaf with a hole in it at the bottom center, and that further gave it away.  Lastly, when I saw the dome shape in the background I knew.  This is Aster tataricus.  Where was my mind?

I once had this late September (not this year - I don't even see a stem yet)/early October perennial and loved having the cut flowers.  I planted it again last year, albeit in not very good soil, and it has already thrown out new plants; one of the reasons it can be hard to site in a garden is it spreads readily.

But, its good points outweigh the disadvantage of its size (to six feet; the selection 'Jindai' is shorter) and growth habit (spreads rapidly, and despite the fact that one perennial expert says it doesn't need staking, it does blow over rather easily).  It's a superb cut flower, and lasts a long time in a vase.  The dusty lavender color looks great when mixed with a bouquet of autumn leaves and dried flowers and grasses.  In the garden, it is said to be the longest lasting aster.  

In the South, a lot of perennials don't like the heat and humidity (think delphiniums and lupines).  Aster tataricus is native to Siberia, so it's hardy way up north.  Unbelievably, it does great even to Zone 8.  That's rare indeed.

One more thing.  If I had the nerve, this aster might be able to help me out.  A Web site about medicinal plants said the roots can be used to "calm the mind."  I could use that, but even better, it is supposed to improve memory and remembrance.  In fact, if the Web site is correct, the Japanese word for the flower is "I won't forget you." If I don't reform and start labeling my photographs, Aster tataricus may be just what I need to remedy my situation.

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