Friday, March 23, 2018

Asters & Bumblebees

In mid to late October as I was waiting for a taxi at the end of the driveway, I noticed 20 or so bumble bees flocking around the asters. The asters were pretty much all that was in flower at the time, despite the cold night they were still displaying their brilliant colours.
For anyone who is concerned about the fate of the pollinators we depend upon, then give some thought to adding asters to the garden.

The genus Aster has somewhere around 250 species and most of them are native to North America. In fact, here in northern New Brunswick, asters are everywhere. They line the railroad tracks and abandoned spaces all around town.
The other members of this large group are zinnias, dahlias, mums, and other daisy-faced beauties, all of which belong to the Asteraceae family, the largest of the flowering-plant families. 
The word "aster" derives from a Greek word meaning "star" and was considered a sacred emblem in the pantheon of Greek divinities.  
There is a legend that says asters are a result of a god scattering stardust over the Earth. All through history, asters have been associated with good, and were often placed around alters, as well as wounds and used to ward off evil spirits. 
The most common aster colours are blue, lavender and purple. However, they are also hybrids that are white in colour and others that come in hues of red from pink to crimson.   Mix and match colours for the maximum effect.
The New England Aster and the Michaelmas Daisy may well be among the best-known members of this genus.  
 Asters make great dried flowers. To dry asters you need to use a silica gel which absorbs moisture from flowers rapidly. This preserves the flower color and the majority of flowers will dry in 36 to 48 hours. 
In addition to the silica gel you will need a preferable plastic air tight box. You lay the gel over the bottom of the box, making sure that it is completely covered. 

Next, place the on top of this bed and gently sprinkle the silica gel on the flowers until they are covered. 
A spoon will help you get the gel into the corners and will not harm the flowers. 
Now you cover the box and let is sit for 48 hours. The flowers will hold their colour and you are also able to reuse the silica gel.  
All you need to do is place the silica gel onto a baking sheet in your oven at 200 degrees to dry it back out again.  
The asters will not only look great in a container on your patio or in your garden but they are perennials and will be back next year. Another bonus is they bloom prolifically enough so that you will have blooms for dried and cut flowers as well as your outdoor garden. 
If you are looking for something new for your garden there is an aster waiting for you, so until next week, happy gardening.

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