Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Rare and Beautiful Flower: Georgia Aster

A Rare and Beautiful Flower: Georgia Aster
December 6, 2013 (I'm a little late posting, but I wrote this in December.)

Today I learned a little about propagating asters.  I didn’t know that there were so many varieties, ranging from 8 inches to 8 feet tall.  Plus, they come in a wide variety of colors in white, blue, and pink.  I love how quickly you can gain expertise by searching the web.  One person wrote about how her blue ones turned red, and a writer from Old Farmers’ Almanac responded that it probably reverted to its original colors instead of remaining hybrid.
I have one lonely plant that is a Georgia Aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum).  This perennial wildflower is apparently endangered, or close to it, if for no other reason than it blooms in so few places in Georgia,  Alabama, the Carolinas, and in only one location on the Florida panhandle.  This beautiful, violet-bluish-purple flower is happy to be ignored, which is fine by me.  Considering it is a low-maintenance plant, I want it to take a prominent role in my garden.  However, will it grow here?  Should I invite an endemic plant to a non-endemic site?
A friend gave me this plant last spring when she placed two tiny pots in my hands with the question, “Do you have time to plant this today? It has to go in the ground now and I’m headed out of town.”  Looking down at the bedraggled, nearly leafless stalk, I asked what it was, and she replied, “It’s a Georgia Aster.  They’re endangered.”  So, I took the two little scrawny, half-dried up, wilted little things home and immediately placed them in the ground by my front steps, so that I’d remember to look after them.  One never revived, but the other grew and sent up two stalks, about 2 feet high, covered with buds on the ends of the stems.  One lone little flower popped open in late August, giving me a hint of what was to come, but the rest waited until October when the stalks became top heavy and had to be staked.  I have to say, the leaves are nondescript, dry-looking and lance-shaped.  But, oh my goodness, what a beautiful show when it bloomed.
The deeply colored blooms opened over the course of two months and remained lovely throughout the autumn.  Little by little, the flowers turned brown, dried out, and became fuzzy little balls. This was my cue to take the seed heads and save them.  Hence, my curiosity for learning how to propagate them was peaked and today seemed a good day to see what their needs are for helping these little seeds turn into seedlings.  They are just too lovely not to attempt to increase my one aster into several plants.  However, one gardener reported that the seeds are self-sterile, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my plant is not.
Read Florida blog here: http://hawthornhillwildflowers.blogspot.com/2010/10/georgia-aster-symphyotrichum-georgianum.html

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