Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Climbing Aster

By Jason Holmes
Curator, Doris Duke Center Gardens

I am always interested in cool climbers, and climbing aster, known to us botanical types as Ampelaster carolinianus, is one of the coolest I know.

The prefix ampel means climbing; thus we have the genus “climbing aster.” This deciduous semi-woody plant grows long vine-like stems. These 6- to 8-foot-long sprawling stems may be attached to a trellis, arbors or fences, or allowed to ramble through shrubs. Unlike other vines, it has no way to attach itself, so it relies on whatever may be its closest garden companions.

Ampelaster is native to lowland marshes and moist areas throughout Florida and a few isolated coastal counties in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Easily adaptable to our garden soils, this climber thrives in full sun and has grown magnificently wherever I have planted it.

Its best attribute is its striking floral display during the fall. Like clockwork, climbing aster is covered with clusters of 1-inch flowers in November. I often recall these beautiful blooms because Ampelaster is one of the few plants blooming when leaves are changing to their autumn colors. The flowers have pinkish to purple ray petals that radiate out from the vivid yellow-orange disk flowers in the center. I have found this species to be a great late season nectar source for monarch butterflies and other native pollinators.

We'll have climbing aster and more at our Fall Plant Sale on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, from 8 a.m. to noon. Hope to see you here!

This plant highlight originally appeared in Duke Gardens' Flora magazine.

Fall Plant Sale details:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Membership benefit: Duke Gardens members get 10% off! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word on Facebook. Thank you!

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