‘Bluebird’ smooth aster

 Another great plant group for the fall garden is the asters, and the best of these is ‘Bluebird’ smooth aster. I have many asters , and I’ve profiled them before, but Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’ is my hands-down favorite and seems to be a favorite of bees, hoverflies, wasps, and butterflies too.

Monarch on Symphyotrichum laeve 'Bluebird' smooth aster.
Monarch on Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’ smooth aster.

This fantastic plant is such a beautiful clear blue, a color that is so hard to find in the fall garden. I have taken cuttings and moved them about, so I have a lot of it now. I think it is better than the shorter, but later-blooming ‘October Skies,’ shown below, which I also grow. Just remember to cut ‘Bluebird’ back one or two times before August. With all the rain we’ve had, I didn’t cut mine back enough so I’ve been forced to stake it all over the garden.

It happens.

‘October Skies’ is just starting to bloom so the photos above are from previous years.

Bluebird‘ was selected for introduction in 1994 by Dr. Richard Lighty of Mt. Cuba Center. It was found in a Guilford, Connecticut garden in 1988. I think spontaneously-occurring variations of plants are so fascinating. Just when we think we know all about plants, they up and make a new and sometimes better variety of themselves. While I wouldn’t appreciate that of something invasive, I sure do like it in asters. ‘Bluebird’ doesn’t get rust or any other aster diseases, another plus. Neither does ‘October Skies.’

I also grow S. ericoides, heath aster, which is well-liked by pollinators. It has tiny white or sometimes blue or pink flowers on long arching stems. It is an unruly character that also grows naturally in my shady wooded areas, but I like its frothy presence in the garden this time of year too.

Drummond’s aster, S. drummondii, s really aggressive in my garden so I’m always pulling up big hunks of it. I will never get rid of it. I simply try to tame its aggressive ways.

Tartarian aster, Aster tataricus ‘Jindai,’ a beautiful, tall, straight-stemmed drink of water, lives here too. It and S. novae-angliae ‘Hella Lacy’ are blooming next to each other now.

Other asters in my garden’s repertoire, ‘Alma Potschke’, ‘September Ruby,’ ‘Raydon’s Favorite,’ and ‘Bonnie Blue,’ are not blooming yet. We need something for the end of October I suppose.

S. carolinianus, syn. Aster carolinianus, Carolina climbing aster, is growing every which way on a tuteur in the garden and started to bloom yesterday. When I saw it, I felt like an old friend had returned.

Good news on the Monarch butterfly front, numbers are up for the migration south. I’m seeing four to six Monarch butterflies in my garden every day, and I saw part of the migration high up in the sky on Sunday. It was a thrill. I did a video on Instagram of one of the Monarchs in my garden two days ago. This morning, a cold front and rain came through so all of the butterflies are shivering in the native oak trees above my garden.

Female Monarch on 'Bluebird' aster.
Female Monarch on ‘Bluebird’ aster.

In addition to Monarchs, I’ve seen so many Pipevine Swallowtails this week,  There must be some pipevine around here somewhere to have so many. The photo below doesn’t even look real does it?

Even though we have quite a few Monarchs passing through, the most prolific butterfly at Little Cedar Garden is the Gulf Fritillary. Males and females are all over the false vervain and now that the hummingbirds seem to be gone, they think it’s all theirs. They are small, but feisty butterflies that chase off the Monarchs and the Spicebush Swallowtails. Their antics make me laugh. I grow passion flower vine for them. I found a place along the split-rail fence where it can trail.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and Giant Swallowtails are long gone. I miss them but will look forward to seeing them again next year.

If you plant it they will come. So, in addition to saving the Monarchs, how about we plant for other butterflies and pollinators? It isn’t hard, and they won’t bother you while sipping nectar in your garden. Honestly, saving the creatures is really up to the gardeners. We’re the ones who decide which flowers, shrubs, and trees to plant. Get rid of some of that Bermuda grass and plant something you and your pollinators will enjoy.

Male Monarch butterfly on 'Bluebird' aster.
Male Monarch butterfly on ‘Bluebird’ aster.

Okay, enough preaching. My whole garden yesterday, in the sunshine, was abuzz with creatures. If you want to feed bees and butterflies before fall is over, plant asters especially ‘Bluebird.’

I’m posting this in connection with Gail’s Wildflower Wednesday meme at her Clay and Limestone blog although I didn’t make the exact date.

18 Comments

  1. Diana Studer says:

    I do garden for biodiversity. Need to seek out some plants deliberately for butterflies. Meanwhile I share my lemon tree with citrus swallowtails.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Diana, how lovely! I’ve never seen a citrus swallowtail. I think I’ll go look for a photo. I just keep planting more plants for the pollinators. It’s my favorite thing to do now. ~~Dee

  2. Laura Hartley Short says:

    How gorgeous! We plant specifically for pollinators in many places on.our land. Our asters are blooming, and they now compete with Porterweed, salvia, echinacea, and buddleia! We’ve had butterflies galore. THIS IS WHY I GARDEN!!! Your gardens remind me of ours sooooo much!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Laura, How great to see you here and on Instagram! It’s why I garden these days too.~~Dee

  3. Your beautiful asters and butterflies warm my heart on this cold, cold day, Dee. I just came in from my garden where last night’s hard freeze zapped EVERYTHING. Now it’s clean-up time and planning for next year: ‘Bluebird’ aster being top of my list. P. x

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Pam! Although we had a couple of frosts, no freeze here yet. I need to get out and plant my bulbs and the rest of my pansies. I’m going to do that tomorrow.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You go right ahead and preach, it’s a view we all need to hear!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I try not to preach, but occasionally, I can’t help it! Thank you for reading!

  5. Oh yes, ‘Bluebird’ is a beauty! I can’t seem to get Asters to stick around here, with all the shade and the rabbits. But I love them! I especially like the medium blue shades. Blue Mistflower has a similar glow. 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Beth! I’m sure it’s the shade that’s the worst culprit. I definitely have rabbits everywhere. I don’t have much shade.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Right now in my garden, the billows of October Sky are the big attraction for Monarchs, Sulphers and a Milbert’s Tortoise Shell that are still around. The f _ _ _ _ word has been mentioned in the forecast. It has been an amazing year for butterflies!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Ugh on a freeze. It seems like it was just summer, and we may not get much fall at all.

  7. Rose says:

    What a lovely collection of asters you have, Dee! I have ‘October Skies,’ too, but ‘Bluebird’ sounds like a great addition to my garden. I just read your last post on your Muhly grass–gorgeous! I have been in love with this plant ever since I first saw it on Frances’ blog, but never thought I could grow it here. Thanks for the tip on the cultivar that is supposed to be hardy in zone 5-6. Now to write these ideas down so I remember them next spring:)

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Rose, I fell in love with asters when I saw what they could do to entice pollinators to my garden and extend the gardening season. Summer isn’t the best time in Oklahoma so I itch for the fall come August. ‘Bluebird’ is more stately than ‘October Skies’ as much as I like both. I love the muhly grass. Thank you! It’s all Frances. She inspired me years ago to add it. You might dictate those ideas as a reminder into your phone to order next spring. That’s what I often do.

  8. carol says:

    I want ‘bluebird’ asters! A happy post, Dee!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Girrrl, you need ‘Bluebird’ aster!

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I would love to have bluebirds of any sort in my garden. I am going to look for this aster next year.
    I am always surprised when you write about Gulf Fritillaries in your garden. It seems to me that you are too far North for them. It is always great excitement when we find one around here. They are not common in our area. I have planted pipevine in my garden. I hope I am not sorry. I hear it can become quite invasive. I will find out. I hope to lure the Pipevine butterflies that pass through to stay long enough to leave a few eggs. Your garden is still quite lively with all the asters and butterflies.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, I think you can find it easily online. About the Gulf Fritillaries, they are all over Oklahoma. They are mighty little butterflies, and I’ve had them ever since I planted passionflower vine many years ago. If I have their larval host, I get more of them than ever. If I don’t plant it, I don’t have so many. I did plant pipevine even though I heard it was a thug too. Maybe it will compete with the American wisteria for who can bring down the arbor first. Ha!

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