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With the end of summer’s heat comes the beginning of fall’s color. I love asters and fall brings lots of them. A favorite of mine is Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome.’ Nova-angliae is botanical Latin for New England where this aster is most happy. The flowers are a clear rosy-purple and the foliage is a healthy deep green. Height is close to 18 inches to 2 feet and rarely needs to be cut back to keep the plants compact. Purple Dome’s fame comes from its disease resistance, while most asters suffer from powdery mildew, Purple dome isn’t fazed by it! Purple Dome is a good color contrast to Rudbeckias and a great compliment to Sedums.
Much of the charm of Purple Dome comes from its origin. Discovered by plantsman Dick Lighty, former director of Mt. Cuba in Delaware, whose position it was to map and catalog plants of the Eastern piedmont. Always looking for outstanding plants for American gardens, Dr. Lighty found Purple Dome growing in the wilds of the eastern seaboard, in the days before we discussed GE and GMO’s and their impact on the environment. Aster Purple Dome is a great example of natural selection. And while most of my favorite plant picks are chance discoveries, Dick Lighty’s Aster Purple Dome is a classic example of finding good genetics by observing nature. Purple Dome is a simple plant that simply fits in every fall border.