I’ve been inspired to create Aster-Goldenrod Garden Plan. Last week I traveled to the finger lakes region of New York state. Driving through upstate Pennsylvania and into New York “wildflowers” grew along the roadsides. These flower combinations stretch from near my Philly home all the way to Lakes Seneca and Cayuga in New York. I saw the same combination of native plants growing together. Unplanted and unplanned by human hands, the flowers were natural companions and made such a lovely display during the overcast and sometimes sunny days.
The flowers were New England Aster, White Wood Asters, Goldenrods, White Snakeroots, and sometimes Rudbeckias (Black-eyed Susans).
This is a beautiful fall wildflower (native plant) combination to try.
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Inspiration for an Aster-Goldenrod Garden Plan
There are several ways to use these plant communities as inspiration. My plan is to mimic the plant combination in my garden for a similar display next fall. I have the spot picked out. I will build on the New England Asters I have nex tht bottom of my garden. I’ll move Black-eyed Susans from the other side of the garden and replace the short Goldenrods with a taller species. The Black-eyed Susans should self-sow. I hope to gather seeds from a 3-foot high stand of Goldenrod at the end of a neighbor’s yard.
Here are some ways this plant combination can inspire you.
- Mimicry – mimic the combination with the same species (maybe substitute suitable cultivars)
- Types of plants – plan a tall plume, low daisies, and small clustered flower heads
- Height – use the different heights as a guide
- Colors – repeat the stunning autumn color scheme of purples, golds, and soft whites
- Bloom times – create a small or large area of late summer to autumn blooming flowers
Acquiring the Native Species
If you want to go hardcore native species, take note of where natural stands of these plants are growing and return and collect the dried seedheads. Since these seeds will naturally disperse during this time of the year, I would sprinkle them where you want them to grow soon after collecting.
Collecting seeds. Instead of buying nursery plants, it might be easier to collect seeds from plants that spring up near you. Collect only the amount you need, from the smaller plants. If a plant looks like a larger ‘mother’ plant leave her to make more baby plants.
Unless you have permission or are sure it’s okay to collect the plants, I would leave the original plants where you find them.
Native plant nurseries often carry straight species and various cultivars of the local plants.
Seeds sold by seed companies such as BotanicalInterests.com (affiliate link)
Botanical Interests Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susans) seeds on Amazon.com.
The Aster-Goldenrod Garden Plan
This overview of the plants includes information on controlling height and compactness. This is especially useful techniques on the straight species of indigenous plants which are to quite the size you need in your garden. All pruning information is from Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques (on Amazon.com).
New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
Native white asters (a large selection of species)
The New England Asters growing in my garden are probably 12-15 years old. I’ve moved them around my garden an they still bloom beautifully each autumn. They feed the last of the bees nectar before the coming cold end their busy little lives.
Indigenous to the MidAtlantic where I currently live, these New England Asters flourish up and down the east coast and reach deep into the interior. New England Asters are for sale in nursery and big box home stores in late summer. New York Aster (Aster novae-angliae) are an alternate species White asters pop up here and there in autumn. The species that are companions to New England Asters are indigenous white asters. In England these asters are called “Michaelmas daisies”.
There are over 600 species of asters in the world, most from North America. From these popular garden plants are hundreds of cultivars. “Purple Dome” (18 to 24 inches tall) is a cultivar of Aster novae-angliae, and is shorter that the straight species of New England Aster which can reach six feet tall. There are sure to be varieties suitable to your gardening needs.
The tall asters, like New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), respond well to being pinching or cutting back to reduce height. These can be pinched back several times before mid- to late July.
Goldenrods (Solidago species)
Bright gold flowers add their sunny colors to the autumn landscape. Because these showy plants bloom in autumn they are often blamed for hayfever. But the hayfever cause is ragweed. The large sticky spollen of goldenrods aren’t carried by the wind like the hayfever-inducing ragweed.
Beginning in late August, goldenrods plumes glow at heights form one to seven feet tall. While driving on errands I take a mental note of the places I see goldenrods blooming. The plumes that are 2 to 4 feet tall are ones I plan to collect seeds from to scatter in the garden bed where I want them to grow.
Taller Goldenrods can be cut back by one-half in early June, which will reduce their height and make them more compact.
Goldenrods are also readily available with species and cultivars available in nurseries and plant sales.
White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)
White Snakeroot is under appreciated in the garden. I love when they appear in late September in my garden. The soft white flowers stand out among all the golds, oranges, and reds of autumn. I don’t think White Snakeroot is sold in nurseries, maybe at native plant sales. It volunteers in my garden and I encourage it to stay by not pulling up too many plants. To get the Snakeroot to grow where I want it, I’ll sprinkle the dried seed heads where I want them to grow.
Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia species)
Rudbeckias are only indigenous to North America. They are found all over north North America from Canada to Florida and across from New England to California. The colors range from light lemony yellow to soft gold. A favorite of gardeners for centuries, there many, many readily available cultivars to choose from. I’ll be looking to buy a cultivar to add to my Aster-Goldenrod garden plan.
After seeing the Aster-Goldenrod natural plant combination, I’ll move the Black-eyed Susans from one side of the garden to the other where I’ll grow the combination next year.
For years my favorite Rudbeckias have been the cultivars, “Goldstrum”. I’ll be looking for a good cultivar to round my Aster-Goldenrod planting plan.
I hope you found this information useful. I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the road as I drove 525 miles(round trip) from Philly to the Finger Lakes. Even the cabin we stayed in had this plant combination in the meadows surrounding the property.
FYI: My family stayed at Single Island Shores cabins. The cabins and cottages are lovely, well maintained, clean and I recommend them. I am not affiliated the Single Island Shores.com.
Article: Fall Sown Flowers (the benefits of sowing flowers in the fall) on Botanical Interests.com website. This is an affiliate link, which earns me a commision at no cost to you.
Below are links are Amazon.com affiliate links. I may earn a commission for Amazon purchases using the links. This does not affect the price you pay.
DiSabato-Aust, Tracy. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques. Expanded ed. Portland, Or: Timber Press, 2006. – Several editions which detail how to pinch back, prune, and cut back perennials for prolonged bloom or to reduce blooming height. Here’s a link to the latest third edition on Amazon.com.
Leopold, Donald Joseph. Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening & Conservation. 1st. Portland, Or: Timber Press, 2005.
Ottesen, Carole. The Native Plant Primer. 1st ed. New York: Harmony Books, 1995.