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FutureStarrGoldenrod and Aster
Mr. Lorimer was the curator of the Native Flora Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden for 14 years, so he knows the choices of aster and goldenrod species and cultivars are dizzying. After years of “reading the landscape,” as he put it — looking for clues as to what grows where and with what — he offered some insights.Only one native Aster (A. alpinus) remains in North America, writes Carol Gracie in her new book, “Summer Wildflowers of the Northeast,” and it grows in parts of the mountainous West, and in Alaska and Canada. There are still true Aster species in Eurasia, but domestically, gardeners need to practice using Latin names like Symphyotrichum, Eurybia, Doellingeria, Ionactis and Oclemena.
Gardeners often skip goldenrod because its bloom coincides with that of ragweed (Ambrosia, also in the aster family). Goldenrod is incorrectly blamed for hay fever, although its pollen is not wind-borne. The spreading reputation of another species, Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), also causes hesitation. “It’s a plant with loads of wildlife value, a pioneer species of old fields and open spaces, but often a bad choice for smaller gardens,” said Mr. Lorimer, who recommended goldenrods that are more clump-forming — or at least less rampant. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, she says, science also tells us that the two colors of purple asters and yellow goldenrod, having reciprocal colors in human and bee eyes and growing together, attract a greater number of pollinators than either would growing alone, therefore leading to better plant success.
She adds, “It’s a testable hypothesis, it’s a question of science, a question of art, and a question of beauty” (46).I like to imagine that they were the first flowers I saw, over my mother’s shoulder, as the pink blanket slipped away from my face and their colors flooded my consciousness. I’ve heard that early experience can attune the brain to certain stimuli, so that they are processed with greater speed and certainty, so that they can be used again and again, so that we remember. Love at first sight. Through cloudy newborn eyes their radiance formed the first botanical synapses in my wide- awake brain, which until then had encountered only the blurry gentleness of pink faces. I’m guessing all eyes were on me, a little round baby all swaddled in bunting, but mine were on goldenrod and asters. I was born to these flowers and they came back for my birthday every year, weaving me into our mutual celebration. (Source: commons.bluemountaincenter.org)