Although I like the idea of asters in reality they are often top heavy floppy creatures, which for someone who has a mental blank about plant supports is not necessarily a good thing. They are also notorious for suffering from the dreaded powdery mildew. This Aster lateriflorus “Lady in Black” however has an almost shrub like rigidity and has so far been free from both pest and disease. It steadily grows throughout the season from nothing, minding its own business whilst all around are merrily blooming away. It weathers most storms without complaint and then in late summer and autumn gives a remarkable display that would bring a smile to the hardest heart. Pink centred tiny white flowers festoon the dark leaved foliage whose aroma is apparently a deterrent to deer – it just keeps getting better! It is native to eastern North America where it was used in the form of root tea for gastric problems. The whole plant was used to treat wounds in the form of either a tea or a poultice. In the past it was also believed that by burning the leaves serpents would be kept at bay. Due to short nectar tubes in the flowers it attracts a large variety of insects and is an invaluable late season food source to even the proboscisly challenged. Aster means star and as far as I am concerned this one certainly is just that.