An unconventional addition to our garden

Bob Dluzen
Special to the Detroit News

There are as many gardens as there are gardeners and every garden is as unique as its owner. Home gardens range from conventional gardens with lines of single varieties of plants, to gardens that apparently follow no design rules. It seems that gardens reflect the personality of the gardener and has a lot to do with their idea of what is beautiful or pleasing to them.

For example, on one end of the spectrum, there are those who prefer to set plants all in a row, in neat lines, with lots of space between plants. Often there is plenty of shredded bark or similar mulch to fill the space between plants.

The orderly designs are relaxing to the eye for many people. They are simply more comfortable in those spaces.

Others are partial to a more natural approach with an assortment of plants growing as if they sprung up there on their own. Done correctly, it’s not a haphazard process; much planning and forethought goes into a garden of that type in order to make it look right.

I’ve seen gardens where gardeners had attempted a natural approach but had only ended up with a hodge-podge of plants seemingly planted wherever there was space.

The flowers of native heath asters have small, delicate petals surrounding a bright yellow center disc that contains pollen and nectar for pollinators.

One of my favorite approaches is using a mix of cultivated and wild plants. When put to good use, the result can be quite eye-catching.

For example, in one of our gardens, we place native heath asters in strategic spots. We transplanted these perennial plants from other locations on our property.

Many people consider wild asters weeds and will pull them out.

Heath asters’ clouds of small, white flowers add a soft texture much like baby’s breath, fern or greenery fills in and accents a bouquet of cut flowers in a vase.

Native heath asters serve to bring together groupings of plants throughout the garden.

The asters fill in spaces and also serve to connect or tie together different species of plants, whether they are flowering plants or woody shrubs.

In our garden, large dahlias and tall salvia are brought together along with other varieties. In addition, the heath asters do a very good job of hiding the sparse foliage at the base of tall plants such as tall dahlias.

There are several different species of asters with small white flowers and most of them can be used in the garden in this way.

They are a valuable source of nectar and pollen in the fall for all of the different kinds of pollinators, including honeybees. 

You don’t need a meadow full of wildflowers to make a statement; sometimes a few well-placed native flowering plants will greatly enhance your garden.