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Asters & autumn perennials

Recent name changes in the aster family (Asteraceae).

Gardeners will be a little dismayed to learn that many of the plants known as asters have had a name change. There are sound botanical reasons. DNA discoveries suggest that plants we thought were closely related are not.

A study of asters world wide indicated that Eurasian asters stand apart from North American species, which are now known as Symphyotrichum. Our list of perennial plants now reflects that.

In all probability for sometime to come in general converstion we shall still refer to the whole group as "asters".

Uses and growing conditions

From our experience, grasses in the garden need to be supplemented by other herbaceous plants. Asteraceae with their varied forms and vivid colours are an excellent choice for the late summer and autumn garden, We offer a good range of mildew resistent varieties in a range of colours.

In the wild many of the Asteraceae grow in almost boggy conditions so a well managed clay soil is ideal, or if you are on well drained chalk or limestone like us, incorporate plenty of garden compost or well rotted manure into the soil. However, most Asteraceae are actually tolerant of a range of soil conditions, they do require a sunny position.

Attack by powdery mildew is one of the reasons asters went out of fashion, but this can be avoided by the provision of a moisture retentive soil. It is most likely on the Symphyotrichum novae-belgii cultivars and can be avoided by spraying early in the season with fungicide. There is an easy available domestic remedy, but the regulations do not permit us to put that in writing.

Commonly known as Michaelmas Daisies because they are in flower around Michaelmas Day, 29th September, many of the Asteraceae are the result of natural crosses and breeding programmes over the last 150 years. This has helped to produce many mildew resistent varieties. Generally speaking the shiny leaved varieties are more susceptible than those with hairy leaves as the spores of the fungus find it easier to settle on a smooth surface.

Asteraceae can be divided into four categories which contain many hybrids and do not necessarily represent separate species.

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New York Asters - Symphyotrichum novae-belgii

Generally shorter plants [60 - 120cm] with much branching flowering stems bearing flowers up to 2cm in diameter. Leaves are narrow, pointed with a shiny surface. Flower colour ranges from white through pink to dark purple. As this group can be susceptible to mildew we have a limited range of cultivars.

New England Asters - Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Alma PotschkeTaller varieties [100 - 150cm] with erect stiff stems clothed with furry, grey-green leaves each clasping the stem. A dense head of flowers, often reaching 4cm in diameter in a range of vivid colours, and attractive to bees and other pollinating insects. This group is resistant to mildew and in our garden have been mildew free for over ten years. One of our favourites is 'Andenken an Alma Potschke' which is a shocking pink,



Helen Picton

SeptemberrubinDeep purple Symphyotrichum novae angliae 'Helen Picton'

and ruby red Syphyotrichum novae angliae 'Septemberrubin'.




Smaller flowered Asteraceae

We include three species in this category charcterised by graceful sprays of tiny star-like flowers:-

Symphyotrichum (cordifolium hybrids), Symphyotrichum laterifolium and another name change Galatella sedifolia.


Little CarlowOur most popular is Symphyotrichum 'Little Carlow' (cordifolium hybrid), which is a brilliant garden plant with pale blue flowers in large clusters all the way up its flowering stems.







For something similar, but a little different Galatella sedifolia 'Nana' with stary mid-blue flowers in multisprays up the stem is worth a try, even in a pot provided it is kept well watered.



Aster amellus

Dwarf, lax Asters with furry grey-green leaves and large flowers [6cm dia.] in blue or pink. They are tolerant of some shade. mildew resistant and like free draining soils.


Aster amellus Rosa Erfullung

Aster amellus 'Roas Erfullung'' [Ht. 45cm] has an abundance of very pretty sprays of bright purple-pink flowers. It blooms for weeks from early to mid autumn. Its growth is compact





Aster amellus 'Brilliant'Aster amellus 'Brilliant' [70cm] has bright pink daisy-like flowers in abundance on stiff dark stems. It flowers from July to September.






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A good supporting act for the Asterceae are hardy Chrysanthemums and Sedums.


The Chrysanthemum as most people are aware is associated with "old fashioned" cut flowers or funerals; but there is a group of chrysants which are really garden worthy. They belong to the 'rubellum' group and are a useful addition to the autumn border.

Perennial chrysanthemums come from China [recorded by Confucious in 500BC], but the hardy varieties did not arrive in Europe until 19th century. The rubellum group arose from a chance seedling found in North Wales.

In trials at RHS Garden Wisley in 2009-12 all the cultivars were shown to be hardy, surviving temperatures of -17°C in 2010. They prefer a fertile, moist soil which is well drained, and a sunny position.

The following perform well in our garden, flowering in early autumn. They are disease free, hardy and tolerant of most soil conditions.


Bronze Elegance'Bronze Elegance' is 60- 70cm in height with bronze double flowers in early autumn.







Mary Stokerx rubellum 'Mary Stoker' has a bushy mound of light green leaves and loose sprays of large yellow daisy-like flowers blushed with apricot. It is excellent for cutting and flowers in August to October,








'Rumpelstilzchen' is 60cm in height with double, rusty-red flowers in early autumn.




Sedums [Stonecrops]

Sedums range from creeping varieties to upright border plants. They are tolerant of neglect, hence their appearance in old overgrown gardens. Most people are familiar with Sedum spectabile 'Herbsfreude', but there are many good cultivars available with flower colours from white through to pink shades to red.

The following hybrids are easy to grow, attractive to the eye and require minimal care. They prefer a sunny position and will tolerate a fairly dry soil. The larger varieties are prone to 'flop', so cut them back by half at the end of May to produce stronger stems, which will remain upright.


Sedum fabariaSedum telephium subsp. fabaria has mid-pink flowers in early September. It has serrated edges to its leaves which give it distinctive and attractive foliage in spring. It averages about 45cm in height.





Other perennials

We have a few more plants which contribute well later in the season.

Kniphofia rooperiKniphofia rooperi is an evergreen perennial with long arching angled leaves and dense rounded spikes of tubular bright red flowers fading to yellow in autumn. Height 1m.





Leucanthemum 'Goldfinch'Leucanthemum x superbum 'Goldfinch' is a clump forming perennial. It has bright lemon-yellow daisy-like that gradually change to ivory-white. Butterflies love it. It is good for cutting and works well in conatiners and borders. Height 45 - 60cm.




Click here for a list of perennials in stock.