We’ve reached the point in the year where you can sense the days growing shorter and the brief high of summer waning. Same goes for color in the landscape now: it is waning. There are, however, some fantastic plants you can plant to offer a shot of glowing color to counteract the sometimes-gloom of knowing what’s ahead (starts with a W). Aster oolentangiensis, or sky-blue aster, is one such plant. It grows tall (5’+) and offers a swath of glowing blue-purple that seems to hover above the other plants slowly heading back into winter slumber. Step up a bit closer to it and you will see pollinators-o-plenty taking advantage of this fantastic late-summer nectar source.
Now, before we make the mistake of extolling too many of the virtues of this plant, we will say this: it comes up early, grows fast, and the foliage looks weedy. To screen its weediness a bit, we like to plant it behind other plants that we know also come up early, grow tall, or that leaf out early. Some good ones for screening are the ever-reliable Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ / Karl Foerster feather reed grass, and Cornus alba aurea / prairie fire dogwood. Do this, and you won’t notice the plant much until late August, when the flower heads begin to emerge and just start to offer a glimmer of what is to come mid-September. So, with a little strategic placement, you’ll have a great, reliable addition to your pollinator-friendly-but-still-pretty-tidy landscape.