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What do the bees do in October?


What do the bees do in October?

If you have New England aster in your garden, they keep foraging like mad.

In my garden the bees were all over my ‘Hella Lacy’ aster this morning, and I was very glad to see them. My shorter asters have now stopped blooming and are going to seed, but ‘Hella Lacy’ is a late bloomer and I’ve seen it feeding monarchs in October fueling up for their trip to Mexico.

‘Hella Lacy’ is a vibrant dark purple, about 4 feet tall, that was named for the wife of Allen Lacy, a philosophy professor, garden columnist and author of many garden books. The purple aster appeared out of the blue in his garden and was thought to be a new plant, so Lacy introduced it officially. Later some experts from England told him it wasn’t new after all, so you may also see it on the market as ‘Treasurer’. Whatever the name, it’s a good plant.

The English call asters Michaelmas daisies because they bloom around the time of Michaelmas Day, September 29, which honors St. Michael the Archangel. They are, however, American natives. New England asters (Aster novae-angliae) grow up to 4 feet tall and can flop, so it helps to cut them back by half two or three times early in the summer. That also helps a bit with the tendency of aster foliage to brown out at the bottom. It’s always a good idea to put tall asters at the back of the border and place other plants in front of them. A second, shorter aster species is New York aster (A. novae-belgii). The nomenclature wizards have lately decreed that asters are henceforth to be known as Symphyotrichon, but if that’s too much bother, just keep calling them asters.

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