Favorite or New Plant
Asters are favorites for late-season color, but many species tend to sprawl or flop. Not so with this Siberian native. Tatarian asters reach 4 to 5 feet in height and never need staking. The leaves are attractive and virtually disease free, and from late August into October they are covered with brilliant purple, daisy-like flowers. This late-blooming aster may be a challenge to place because it is so big and so coarse textured. It can look more like a roadside weed than a civilized flower. But tatarian aster (Aster tataricus) is still blooming at the time of the first frost, and the local butterflies surely appreciate that! You can use tatarian aster in back of the border or allow it to naturalize in a wildflower/butterfly garden. To encourage a strong, upright form, grow tatarian asters in full sun and average, well-draining soil.
The Wildlife Gardener's Guide
The Wildlife Gardener's Guide by Janet Marinelli (Brooklyn Botanical Garden, 2008; $9.95) is a terrific handbook devoted to the art and science of energizing a garden with the presence of birds and butterflies. It includes ten hands-on wildlife garden projects with step-by-step instructions, lists of plants that have critter appeal, and detailed plans for wildlife-friendly borders and containers.