Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Dwarf Tatarian Aster

aster-tataricus-jindai-fingers-640

 

Here it is: the easiest and longest-blooming aster.  Also the tallest.  What pleasant flowers, too.  Not the most vivid or the largest, but definitely the best displayed.  Tatarian aster's strong stems don't flop in thunderstorms or even (thanks for the test, Irene) hurricanes.  So the flowers are always right at hand as well as—even for me, 6'3" in bare feet—at eye level.

 

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And yet, this is the "dwarf" cultivar of Aster tataricus, 'Jindai'.  Indeed, it is short—just four to six feet.  Aster tataricus itself can soar to three or four feet taller. 

 

aster-tataricus-jindai-overall-640

 

I really must plant the species itself.  These vertical sprays of lavender buds are so strong a look in front of the yews, but only the portion of the yews that's three to six feet above ground.  The yews will top out at sixteen feet tall someday, so why not have the exciting contrast of the aster buds extend as high as possible?

 

A ten-foot Aster tataricus?  Great.  Is there a super-giant out there, too?  A fourteen-foot behemoth?  I've got the spot for it.

 

aster-tataricus-jindai-cham-to-yew-640

 

Aster tataricus isn't just irresistible to gardeners—even the ones that don't need an aster any taller than 'Jindai'.  Everything that flies and flutters also likes Aster tataricus.  This bee is too busy to fly away (or to sting me) as I tilted this spray of flowers into better alignment with the camera.

 

aster-tataricus-jindai-bee-finger-640

 

Or maybe I was just lucky.

 

 

Here's how to grow the ultimate in easy and long-flowering perennials:

 

Latin Name

Aster tataricus 'Jindai'

Common Name

Dwarf Tatarian Aster

Family

Asteraceae, the Aster family.

What kind of plant is it

Deciduous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 3 - 9

Habit

Broadly basal near the ground, but strongly and reliably vertical as the flowering stems develop in Summer into Fall. 

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

A colony four to six feet tall; if allowed to spread, even more than that across.

Texture

The large basal foliage is thick and groundcovering, looking more like a great crop of Swiss chard than a graceful and even delicately flowering perennial.  The vertical stems sprout fewer and smaller leaves as they lengthen, so the upper reaches, which have most of the flowers, are vertical and airy, like really big-boned Verbena bonariensis.   

Grown for

its flowers:  Small lavender asters with a showy yellow center, in large heads at the top of tall and remarkably self-supporting stems.

 

its appeal to pollinators:  Aster tataricus is always popular with all possible pollinators: butterflies, bees, whatever.  You can rely on its being abuzz and aflutter through the many weeks of its blooming season.  What a way to ensure easily-visible motion and energy in your garden, while also doing a real favor to all of your beneficial insects.

 

its self-reliant height:  'Jindai' grows to six feet tall, so it's a "dwarf" only because the straight species of Aster tataricus can be eight to ten feet tall.  Regardless of the high altitude, Aster tataricus is self-supporting.

 

its vigor: As long as you plant 'Jindai' in a reasonable soil in full sun, it's about as enthusiastic and bullet-proof as a perennial can be.  It starts out strong in Spring, stays alert all Summer despite the usual swelter and gaps in the rainfall, begins to get really exciting by September as the well-budded flowering stems top three and four feet, and continues to maintain that excitement through to hard frost.      

Flowering season

Late Summer to frost:  September into November here in Rhode Island.  Aster tataricus is the aster with the longest flowering season. 

Culture

Full sun, rich soil, plenty of water.  This is not the plant for dry soil or sustained drought stress.  But, be assured, it's nothing like the fainting and frying monsters such as filipendula and thalictrum, which can be so scorched by a pitiless August that there's nothing to do but cut them to the ground.

How to handle it

Aster tataricus is easy.  Your only challege is limiting its enthusiasm by digging around the colony in early Spring and yanking out any of the perimeter that's wandered too far.  You'll have plenty of hefty divisions to pot up for Spring plant sales.  The straight species will be too tall for most gardens—and, more importantly, most gardeners—but 'Jindai' is a plant that nearly everyone can feel good about.  So your divisions will have plenty of takers.

 

I haven't had my colony long enough to know first-hand, but it's often the case that asters benefit from being dug up entirely every third year, with just a few of the perimeter hunks replanted to carry on.  If you let your Tatarian aster colony increase at will year by year, though, that would be all the more to heave out of the ground.  Better to keep on top of this year by year by digging out the perimeter every Spring, to limit the actual extent of the mother colony to dig up every third Spring.

 

Downsides

Aster tataricus is not the plant for tight quarters; 'Jindai' is a dwarf only in comparison to the straight species, so it, too, is the plant only for larger beds.  Even a young clump is bulky—mine is only two years old!—and colonies tend to increase readily via underground rhizomes.  

 

Like most asters, A. tataricus wants good soil and plenty of water, and it's more susceptible to mildew when it doesn't get them.  I've had no problem myself, but then again, my soil is rich and even heavy, and my water table is shallow.

Variants

The straight species itself, Aster tataricus, can be several feet taller—to ten feet!—but is otherwise as self-supporting, long-blooming, vigorous, and easy-going.

Availability

On-line and at nurseries.

Propagation

By division in Spring.  

Native habitat

Aster tataricus is native to central Asia—Siberia, Manchuria—as well as Japan.  'Jindai' was a spontaneous mutation discovered near Tokyo.  

 
 
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