Saturday, September 12, 2009

Asters vs. Mums

Mums come in such great colors and forms. There are elebenty-lebben shades of orange, as well as red, yellow, pink, purple, and white. There are cushion, spider, football, daisy, quill, spoon, and pompom mums. There are garden mums (perennials) and florist mums (annuals). In short, there probably is a mum that can please just about anyone.

And then there are the asters. Another fall bloomer (most of them, anyway) that provides a bright splash of color when much of the garden is winding down for the season and half of us are either depressed because it's over while the other half is welcoming the break.

New York Aster
Symphyotrichum novi-belgii 'Crimson Brocade')

Asters don't come in as many forms and colors as mums. The blooms come in large and small. Purple, magenta, blue, pink, and white are just about it for color. But they have their strong points, too. Asters are generally hardy through zone 4, with some even surviving zone 3 winters just fine. Mums are supposed to be hardy through zone 5, but that can be rather iffy.

For a nicely-shaped mum in the fall that has the maximum number of blooms, continual pinching back of the growth tips until the 4th of July is recommended, while asters don't really need this. They are just naturally beautiful all on their own. You can pinch them back a couple of times if you want to though, for a bushier plant come fall.

I personally have this love affair going on with asters right now, because I've not had the best of luck with mums surviving our winters here. I have yet to lose a single aster. To be fair, once I started following the recommendation of providing good drainage for my mums and not cutting them back in the fall, I haven't lost any of those either. But you'll hear me give a whoop of joy in the spring when I see they've made it through another winter. You just never know.

'Wood's Blue' asters in the foreground with mums behind. There are other purple asters blooming behind those.

It's unbelievable how fast the asters grow. I planted 'Wood's Blue' last year as a quart-sized plant. It now takes up a space of nearly three square feet, is completely covered in blooms, and has gobbled up the 'Edith Wharton' iris. I'll move the iris next spring.

The daisy mums, like 'Clara Curtis,' 'Bolero' (shown at left), and 'Rhumba,' are super reliable for me and I highly recommend them if you have trouble keeping mums around. But in my quest to make gardening easier, I'm focusing on asters for adding some fall color this year.

In the last couple of years, I've searched for white asters and for some reason couldn't find any in our local garden centers. I found some alpines, which bloom in late spring, but I wanted some white fall asters. Yesterday I finally found some, at Lowe's. They're New York Asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii), hardy to zone 3, and I bought two of them at $6.98 each for a large pot. These are also called Michaelmas Daisies, particularly in Great Britain, because they usually are in bloom around the Feast of St. Michael holy day, observed on September 29th.

A word about mums and their name: Once belonging to the Chrysanthemum genus, they're now classified as Dendranthemums. Oh wait. I think I heard they're Chrysanthemums again. Or not. Those crazy taxonomists can't make up their minds and I can't keep up with them. We can still call them mums, though. And those Asters? Their genus is Symphyotrichum.

Mums or asters? Asters or mums? Just plant some.


Anonymous said...

I love them both, and they're certainly both stunning in your garden, Kylee. That colour combo is one of my favourites. :)

Kylee Baumle said...

Nancy ~ They're really not all that close to each other, not that you'd consider them to be planted "in combination." A telephoto lens has a way of compressing a scene, as you know, so that's why it looks that way. But thanks! :-)

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Doesn't it drive you crazy when they change the name? I really like that Crimson Brocade Aster. Nice color!!

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Kylee, it's a fantastic post! Love it and love pictures.

Dave@The Home Garden said...

I have them both but I really prefer the asters. I like the mums too but I think the colors the asters have are nicer. I have the 'New York Celeste' aster which has a nice color. This is its third season in the ground.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Hi Kylee, an informative and fun post. I love both asters and mums. Mums are reliably hardy here, and so are asters, so it's not much of a choice. Still everyone has their favorites. The Willowleaf aster is very tall and very beautiful. I had to move mine when it got too large for the space. It's blooming now. They both brighten an otherwise spent garden in fall don't they?~~Dee

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Asters, just because I don't have any;)

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I really like mums, but they almost never make it through the winter here. You're right about asters, they are tough and grow fast. I've added a few asters this summer and I'm sure I'll break down and buy some mums too. It's hard to resist them.

Nutty Gnome said...

I've got some lovely purple asters and some Michalmas Daisies, but your post has made me want to rush out and buy some more asters and loads of mums for all the colour gaps!!
I think you're about to cost me a fortune :)

Muhammad khabbab said...

Kylee this is a tough competition. before visiting this post i had though florist mums are the winner but now its even. you have shared some wonderful asters here.

Babara said...

Hi Kylee,
Thank you for your visit and leaving a comment. I've been away from blogland for a while and have to catch up a lot of posts (here too ;-) !!).What a lovely combination of plants on your first picture. I love it. And I also love asters as well as mums. But the little asters do not so well in my garden....too many slugs being very fond of the little young plants. I tried several times to overwinter my mums but always failed. Luckily they aren't so expensive to buy here in autumn.
Wishing you wonderful autumn days,

Rabbit said...

Hi! I've also read that mums can be forced to bloom by shortening the day light. Have you tried this on your mums? I'm kinda experimenting on it.

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