Asters: the stars of the garden this autumn
PUBLISHED: 11:47 17 October 2014
The autumn garden can be a delight, so Naomi Slade reveals plans to ensure hers is really putting on a show
Wet weather last winter may have put paid to some plants but in my garden there is one bunch of flowers that has been positively thriving. Asters – or Michaelmas daisies - like rich, deep moist soil and they have been thrilled to bits with the additional damp, bursting usefully into flower at the back of the border just as the plants around them begin to fade.
My plan for this autumn is to increase both the number and variety of asters in my garden. The main player so far is a pale purple one that was here when I arrived. I fear it is most dreadfully common but, for shoulder-high interest and autumn flower arranging, both the flowers and the seedheads are worth their weight in gold.
For design purposes, asters come in a harmonious pallet of pink, purple and white which makes choosing easy. To my delicate purple workhorse, I have added Aster novi-belgii ‘Jenny’ a much shorter plant at just over 30cm high, but in a cheerful, lipstick-pink hue. And having set out to find tallish plants with a good strong colour and stonking performance, I have some new acquisitions from mail-order nursery Hayloft Plants to play with; including icing-pink A. novi-belgii ‘Patricia Ballard’ and ‘Red Robin’, which is a hot pink with a striking yellow centre. These will go together with mauve double ‘Marie Ballard’ and ‘Blauglut’ whose wide single blooms are more lavender than lilac.
If your own borders are already packed to bursting and you want to admire someone else’s, then the display at Waterperry garden near Oxford never fails to impress. And if you find yourself heading up the M40, try and make time to drop in to see Brian Ellis at Avondale Nursery near Coventry. Not only does he have a national collection of Asters, arranged for optimum admiration in the Library Garden, he also has many other delightful herbaceous perennials and a bit of a thing for Sanguisorba and Anemone Nemorosa too.
But back to Michaelmas daisies. They may be big, they may be small, the colours may be hotter or cooler; but in the same way that you can’t clash reds, you can’t clash a collection of asters, no matter which or how many you choose. So, with luck, the borders will soon ignite with cheerful yet sophisticated autumn colour. I have planted my plants and I’m waiting.