Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Little Ex-Asters Everywhere

Ex-aster time is the best time to be in the garden. The days are warm and Autumn angle of the sun makes everything glow.
Leaves from the oak and hickory canopy have begun to fall and the sunlight that gets blocked all summer is now able to reach the woodland floor where it warms up the garden and spotlights these little beauties.
Even on cool mornings the sunny spots are alive with bees and other pollinators. You have to be very patient to capture a photo of the Bumbles, they're very busy in their mad dash to collect pollen and nectar to fortify their nests for the winter.
 Later in the day the skippers and Sulphurs can be seen flitting from flower to flower.
 Bee mimics, like the fly above are busy nectaring, too.
Green metallic bees are all over the little ex-asters.
 Although, the Bumbles are my favorites, I am pretty crazy about all the critters that visit and live in this garden. The little bees make me smile, they always travel in a pack. If you see one step back and look around and you'll see dozens of them.
 The ex-asters introduced me to the Bumbles and we've been friends ever since...
Asters (as they were once known) and other Central Basin natives grew with happy abandon in the forested woodland where this garden now stands. Sixty years ago a neighborhood was carved from the woodland and a house was built. Homeowners came and went, while the asters grew quietly on the woodland  edge. Thirty years ago almost to the day, my husband I bought this garden and this brand new gardener fell head over heals in love with the blue clouds of flowers that were covered with bees and butterflies.
 I built my garden around the flowers. I've allowed them to root and seed themselves with abandon.
They've spilled into the paths, crept into the wildflower beds and cozied up to the benches all over Clay and Limestone.
Each fall I wait with anticipation for those first blooms. With them come the pollinators. It's not that there aren't pollinators during the spring or summer, it's knowing that these will be the last until next spring that makes my heart soar and finds me dashing to the garden first thing in the morning.
What a beautiful dance. Swaying flower stalks and busy bees.
It's been a happy and successful relationship, if I do say so myself!


PS All the pollinators~ Bumble Bees, honeybees, Green metallic bees, hover flies, Miner bees, and large Leaf-Cutting bees, bee flies, beetles, butterflies, and skippers that visit the flowers for nectar and/or pollen are essential for cross pollination. So never, ever, ever, ever use pesticides if you want pollinators to pollinate your ex-asters and other plants!

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Fun to see your pollinators. I haven't seen any since our heavy frost the other day. Not much for them to work on in the garden now.

    1. We are lucky we haven't had a killing frost ...I would be heart broken!

  2. Someone asked me the other day what I spray for insects. She shook her head when I said nothing. I explained that I wouldn't have any bumbles or butterflies if I sprayed and that the birds take care of most of the real problem children. Everything is a balance, and it's taken years, but I feel like most of the time I have that balance now. Love your sweet little asters or non-asters. My 'Raydon's Favorite' just began blooming, and I always think of you when aster season comes.

    1. I am always amazed when I run across gardeners who know nothing about the dangers of neonics or other pesticides. They walk into any big box store and think they need any and all the products they sell, no questions asked!

      It's wonderful when our gardens are in balance, when we create an environment that allows critters to flourish Your garden is lovely Dee and showcases balance and a healthy ecosystem.

  3. those softly purple flowers against a vibrant purple bench - lovely combination!

  4. The ex-asters in my garden spots are wonderful now, too! Thanks for a lovely post.

  5. A beautiful ode to autumn, pollinators, and wildflowers in Middle Tennessee, Gail. We didn't have a killing frost yet here (believe it or not), but came very close. While some of the flowers are going strong, the pollinators are mostly gone. No pesticides here, Gail. We try to keep things in balance with companion plantings, biodiversity, and plenty of birds and wildlife. We seem to have a minor outbreak of Asian Lady Beetles, probably because of the mild weather. But even though they're introduced, they're mostly beneficial--eating aphids and spider mites.

  6. Love ex-asters, especially the small-flowered white ones (like in the image with the butterfly). Rabbits have eaten every aster I've ever planted though. I guess beat them with quantity?

  7. I do love all those tiny little flowers which ask for little and provide so much in the way of color, nectar and late flowers. Great pictures as always.

  8. Aren't they just so amazing....mine are still going strong despite the frost we just had! Much to the delight of the pollinators.

  9. Lovely, lovely, lovely, Gail. What's not to love about asters? They return faithfully each year, usually increasing in number, and they're always covered with pollinators here, too.

  10. I let several wild asters seed themselves in my garden and was greeted with massive white clouds of tiny flowers this fall. They hummed like a harmonica symphony from the sheer number of pollinators visiting them. It was wonderful! :o)

  11. As I read along, I kept thinking that your love affair with them was because they are the last of the season. All the latest flowers are especially sweet, aren't they?

  12. So happy to have found your site. I live on 5 acres of "clay and limestone" and know the struggles of gardening on it. I don't have any Witch Hazel but will try planting some. I do have the lovely blue asters you were talking about and Rhus Aromatica. They both are native here. Came with the property. I am looking forward to learning more about you and your garden.


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