Autumn Asters

007We decided to see some Asters before the weather closed in (which it did today!) and so we visited The Picton Garden in Malvern which holds the National Collection on a bright sunny day a few weeks ago, prompted by a visiting speaker to our horticultural society, Marina Christopher, an excellent author, plantswoman and speaker. We met Helen Picton who was very helpful and interested to hear that we may have acquired a new variety in the Plant Heritage exchange scheme this year. 043                                                                    Aster ‘Claudia’ came to us with a rather anonymous label and, although recognised by the RHS, no suppliers are listed in the Plant Finder. I sent a photo to Helen and she believes it may be a small flowered pringlei hybrid and worthy of inclusion in the Collection. I will divide the plant in spring and supply her with some propagation material.  


Asters are combined with Kniphofias and Rudbeckias, tall perennial grasses and sunflowers to provide complimentary colour and height. The colour range of asters is rather limited to the blue/white/pink range so the bright yellows and oranges interspersed with the pastel shades of the asters provide punctuation and separation in the borders.022

I prefer the tall novae-angliae or New England asters which are mildew resistant but require staking, compared to the smaller mounded novi-belgii or New York varieties. The Picton Garden

The other problem with the taller novae-angiae varieties is the nasty habit of dropping their lower leaves just before they flower, leaving bare stems with brown, shrivelled and dead looking leaves. However, if they are part of a mixed border and placed behind other plants, this is not noticed so much. The shorter novi-belgii types are more prone to mildew but are usually stocky and self supporting.037

They are not called Michaelmas Daisies for nothing, and around 29 September is usually the best time to see them at their best. We certainly enjoyed our visit and will go back a little earlier next year. Naturally, I didn’t come away empty handed and have now added the tall and beautiful violet-purple Aster ‘Helen Picton’ to my little collection.

Aster 'Forncett Flourish'

Aster ‘Forncett Flourish’

Although they only put in a brief appearance for a month or so, Asters provide a welcome blast of colour just as the garden is beginning to turn brown and go to sleep. If they are strategically placed along with hardy Chrysanthemums, perennial Rudbeckias, tall grasses, late flowering Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and even tall fiery red and orange Dahlias and Kniphofia rooperi, they will prolong colour and interest until the end of October.

Death & Decay


It is all too easy when writing a blog like this to talk about how good things are and to only put up your best pictures of flowers and foliage on sunny days and in good light. But we all know gardens are not always like that! So, just for a change, I thought I would post some images of my garden on this miserable wet mid-October day.

In reality, at this time of year I am surrounded by a scene of death and decay. 074

Last weekend a friend introduced me to the concept of plants that ‘die well’. I don’t know who originally coined this phrase but it is very apt. Some plants do seem to die better than others. This Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ dies badly in my book and smothers everything else in the process.

The leaves of this Amelanchier lamarckii. on the other hand, die back well with interesting colours and a gradual decline before dropping in November. My alkaline clay is not well suited to it but a generous annual mulch of leaf mould seems to be doing the trick.041

Echinaceas die well because they continue to stand tall and straight and maintain their cones filled with seeds which the finches love. 038

Of course, there are a few bright spots as well. The Verbena bonariensis collapsing into the waiting arms of Bidens aurea makes a lovely chance combination051

And despite the atrocious weather today, my Granddad’s Chrysanthemum which I have named ‘George Simons’ after him, still looks fabulous.025

Some foliage always looks better adorned with raindrops and Cotinus coggygria is one.040

The impossibly named Aster ‘Andenken an Alma Potschke’ is definitely not dying but it doesn’t like the rain. If it wasn’t held up by all around it the metre high stems would be horizontal now.062

Already horizontal and revelling in the wet conditions, the lawn is looking magnificent.

Had to end on a high note!