Plant Profile: Aster tataricus ‘Jin-Dai’

Aster tataricus in bloom

Aster tataricus ‘Jin-Dai’ is a tall herbaceous perennial that blooms in very late fall – usually through the month of October and even into November in our area.  It has clusters of blue-purple flowers with bright yellow centers on the tops of thick, erect stems. ‘Jin-Dai’ is a more compact selection of the species and is generally the one found in cultivation.

While this is not a native plant (it is native to Siberia), it’s very late bloom time is of great benefit to bees. With warm weather extending the fall season, insects are staying active longer. This Aster provides nectar and pollen after many of our native plants have finished blooming for the year.

Aster tataricus has large, coarse leaves at the base that can provide contrast in the garden. It grows best in full sun and can tolerate many soil types, but does require decent drainage.  The tall stems (4-5 feet ) are generally self-supporting but may need some support in windy areas or very rich soils.

 The plant expands by underground rhizomes but is easily controlled by division. Unlike most of our native asters, it is not eaten by rabbits. It is also a good cut flower.

Give Aster tataricus ‘Jin-Dai’ a try in your own garden for a shot of late season flower power.

Want more info? Here are a some links:

Missouri Botanical Garden: Aster tataricus ‘Jin-Dai’

Chicago Botanic Garden: Aster tataricus ‘Jin-Dai’

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Some fun facts

By Alyce Goldman

If you are a fan of pumpkin spice, either as a flavor or smell, then you might be curious how this spice flavor has become so popular. In 1934, the McCormick Spice Company started marketing a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice for pumpkin pie making. 

In the 1990s, pumpkin spice coffee was introduced, which prompted Starbucks to introduce the pumpkin spice latte in 2003.  That seemed to really start the pumpkin rolling, and today you can find an endless selection of pumpkin spice items around in fall. 

The pumpkin is the oldest domesticated plant in the new world and has been grown in North America for thousands of years.  It saved the early settlers from starving after their European crops failed.  The Native Americans introduced them to the many uses of pumpkins. It became a staple food for them and even inspired a Pilgrim poem.

We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon, If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.

Pilgrim poem

The compliment of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves are all warm spices and go hand in hand with the cooling temperatures of fall.  It “feeds” our nostalgia of falling leaves, cool nights, warm sweaters, and yes, decorating with pumpkins.

 For all the products offering this specific flavor, more actual pumpkins are purchased for decorating than for eating!

October Garden Chores

A few fall jobs to consider

Scilla siberica coming into bloom

Now is the time to start planting hardy spring and summer flowering bulbs like crocus, daffodil, tulip, alliums and lilies. Consider some of the less popular bulbs like Scilla,  Chionodoxa and our native Camassia. They are quite delightful and much more rodent resistant than crocus or tulips.

October also means garlic bulb planting time. Plant your garlic cloves in a sunny, well drained location. You will be rewarded by delicious, homegrown garlic next year. More information on growing garlic here.

Dahlia in bloom

After the first killing frost, it’s time to dig up and store tender bulbs and tubers – things like Dahlia, Canna, and  Colocasia.

Start fall garden clean-up – carefully. Remove sickly things first. Plants that have evidence of disease or insect infestation should be removed from the garden and generally should not be added to your compost pile. Where possible, leave plants in place as food, cover and habitat for critters, although you may want to consider removing the seed heads of rampant self-seeders.

Also where possible, leave fallen leaves in place as natural (and free!) mulch. There are many critters snuggling into that blanket of leaves to sleep through winter. Disturbing the leaves can expose and kill them. Where leaves must be removed, you can use them directly as mulch in another area, add them to your compost pile, or create valuable leaf mold for your garden.

My cute little Bosnian pine

Make sure evergreens go into winter fully hydrated – especially those planted recently or in exposed sites. Evergreens will continue to lose moisture through their needles or leaves in the winter but will be unable to take up water if the soil is frozen. They can be damaged or even killed if they go into winter dehydrated.

White deer tail damage can increase as the temperatures drop and there is less food available. Consider techniques to reduce deer browsing on foliage of vulnerable plants. Also, around this time of year, bucks will rub their antlers on young trees. So fencing or caging is important for protecting the bark of newly planted trees.

Hairy Bittercress – getting ready to shoot seeds across the yard.

I hate to say it, but… weed. Winter hardy weeds can make great progress taking over your flowerbeds, because they continue to grow while the plants start their winter sleep. If you can get them out now, things will be much better come spring.

For something a bit more fun… survey your garden for fall interest. Often we do much of our garden shopping in the spring and can end up with a spring heavy – fall light display. So if you have any areas that could use some fall punch, make a note of it for next year.