As we are in the full swing of spring planting, I would like to take a moment to tell you about one of the many plants I am delighted to be putting in the garden. In the spring of 2008, we are adding the climbing aster, Ampelaster carolinianus to the Pollinators Garden. Due to the relatively recent revision of the Aster genus, the climbing aster has been assigned a new genus, Ampelaster.
The climbing aster is unlike most other asters in the fact that it is truly a climbing plant. It will grow best if given a mesh or latticework system where the stems can twine in and out.
The flowers are about the size of a quarter. The showy, outer, petal-like, ray flowers are a soft lavender while the inner, smaller, disc flowers are yellow. While most asters in this area bloom in September and October, the climbing aster often does not come into bloom until late November and can extend into December in spite of cold nighttime temperatures.
It is native to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. In the garden it will thrive best in full sun in well-drained soil. We used to have one growing in relatively poor soil on a lath house at the Scott Arboretum. At maturity, this vine can grow 10 to 12 feet.