I planted two new asters this year to join the sensational and long-flowering purplish-blue Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’.
I’ve been waiting patiently for this one – Aster ericoides ‘Blue Wonder’ – to bloom. I placed it in front of the rampant sunflower Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and feared it would be flattened but plants are resilient and this one has held its own to put on a dazzling display just after ‘Lemon Queen’ had gone over.
I had already enjoyed the Italian, violet blue Aster amellus ‘King George’ for weeks on end on my free-draining sandy soil. Sadly it will have to be moved for next year as it was overshaded by the bushy and fragrant Vibernum x burkwoodii ‘Park Farm Hybrid’. Result: lots of leggy growth in the quest for light which meant it had to be firmly staked once it had come into bloom.
Just as some of us had got used to the botanical names of Michaelmas daisies, many changed in 2015 and the Aster ericoides I mentioned is now the unpronounceable Symphyotrichum ericoides.
Pity the plant nurseries selling them. Tim Fuller of The Plantsman’s Preference, South Lopham, Norfolk gives a very serviceable guide to the new names and has a good selection of healthy plants on sale as well.
In a simpler age, before I got involved with all this nomenclature malarkey, we used to call all asters Michaelmas daisies. It was easy to remember and reminded us that Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year, a day associated with the start of autumn and shorter days as it falls near the equinox.
St Michael traditionally offers protection against the darkness of the night and the Michaelmas daisy is a bright emblem of light shining out against the gloom of winter.