This fall feels farther along than it really is because the nights have been so cool. Trees are already showing considerable color. But many plants in the Asteraceae family are still hanging in there, showing their last few blossoms and continuing to ripen seeds.
Right now, it’s all about the asters: New England asters, several shade-loving species, sky-blue asters, heath asters (scads of tiny white flowers, not pictured). My garden is still full of color, and when the sun is out, the flowers still hum with pollinators.
Most of these will be in bloom for another month, barring very cold weather. Their seed won’t begin to ripen until frost, and plants in shady places are just showing buds.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) is aster’s invariable associate almost everywhere in the northeast. There are many, many species; the one in my garden is a volunteer; it’s about 3 feet tall, and it does well in both sun and part shade. Boltonia asteroides is another member of the tribe and also a good companion for the sun-loving asters. Boltonia began blooming even later than the asters–only about a week ago–and it too will bloom until frost.
Notice the Rudbeckia subtomentosa still blooming in the last picture. That species has many ripe seeds now even as it continues to bloom. Members of the Asteraceae family have now been blooming in my garden for well over three months, since the first Coreopsis opened in late May (I forgot about Coreopsis when I wrote my first post on the Asteraceae), and much longer, if you consider the early spring dandelions. Dandelions aside, consider planting some of these beautiful and carefree species–Asters, Rudbeckias, Echinaceas, goldenrod, liatris, ironweed, Boltonia–and their many cousins.