What we have in COMMON

Politics, politics, nonstop politics. Partisanship running so hot sometimes even family members have a hard time finding common ground. Sunday I was preparing dinner with my sister-in-law, whose political views I do not share. We talked about family news and grandchildren. She commented on the vase of cut asters on the windowsill. Just then, the beautiful shades of twilight were settling on the field and the nursery beyond.

“Let’s go look at the asters!” I said. “This is the best time of day — the twilight really brings out the colors.”


Common California Aster (Aster chilensis)

And so we left the vegetables on the counter and walked across the field to the nursery to look at the Common California Asters (Aster chilensis*) which are growing in a glorious heap. They are in individual pots but their stems are all intertwined with each other, and they are beautiful. Sure enough, their lavender petals and yellow centers were positively glowing in the twilight. And next to them, uncharacteristically blooming in the Fall, were their cousins, Showy Fleabane (Erigeron speciosus). Besides being spring bloomers, they have slightly darker purple petals and a much shorter growing habit. Like the aster, the fleabane loves sun.

The Common California Aster (native from California to B.C.) blooms in the fall, a welcome break from the depression setting in as the days get shorter and the politics get harsher. Enjoying the beauty of nature together can be that common ground we so badly need to share; suddenly the “Common” California Aster represents precious, threatened community.

The Aster and Fleabane are defying the inevitable autumn decline. Other plants in the nursery still look especially terrific: Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant), Pacific Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum tenuipes),Small-flowered Alumroot (Heuchera micrantha), Henderson’s Checker Mallow (Sidalcea hendersonii) — some are blooming!, 4-inch size Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora), Sea Pink (Armeria maritima), Oregon Stonecrop (Sedum oreganum), Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium).

In addition, there are some hard-to-find species available: California Wax-Myrtle (Morella californica), Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus) and a handful of Bog Laurel (Kalmia polifolia ssp. occidentalis).

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