Thursday, November 1, 2012

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'Raydon's Favorite'

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'Raydon's Favorite' - aromatic aster
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'Raydon's Favorite' is a big bang bloomer that covers itself in flowers in the autumn.

Every year since 1996, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'Raydon's Favorite' reliably flowers in my garden towards the end of the year in late October and November. The common name is "aromatic aster" and it is based not on the fragrance of the flowers but rather on the aromatic glandular hairs of the bracts below the flowers.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'Raydon's Favorite' - aromatic aster
The flowers are a clear amethyst-lavender color that never fails to attract the attention of butterflies and native bees.

So far, after 16 years of cultivation in south Florida, it has weathered droughts, intense heat and humidity, tropical storms, and hurricanes. And it has done so without ever having been afflicted by a single pest—not even aphids. What is puzzling is that it is a species of the eastern and central United States from where it extends west to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. The closest that its natural range gets to Florida is North Carolina with reports from Alabama and Mississippi. Yet, it thrives in subtropical south Florida. I have tried growing other cultivars as well as wild forms of Symphyotrichum oblongifolium but all languish and die out after a year or two. But 'Raydon's Favorite' lives on to flower every year and no doubt becomes the favorite of every gardener who makes room for it in his or her yard.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'Raydon's Favorite' - aromatic aster

Its cultivation is essentially effortless so long as it is provided with well drained soil and plenty of sunshine, although it appreciates a little water during extended droughts. It spreads vigorously and rapidly from underground suckers and propagation is easily effected by digging up and potting up the young suckers in the spring. Viable seed has never been set in my garden and, like many ecologically conservative perennial members of the daisy family, aromatic aster appears to be self-sterile.

Images and text © 2012 Rufino Osorio

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