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Top off the garden season with Michaelmas daisies

The Michaelmas daisy is a favourite border plant for adding colour late in the season. You can even enjoy colourful Michaelmas daisies on the patio or balcony because these hardy perennials also thrive in pots and baskets.

From North America to Europe

There are more than 200 species of asters. Most of the Michaelmas daisies originated in North America but they feel right at home in European gardens. Reaching heights of 20 to more than 150 cm and even taller, the tops of their sturdy stems are decorated with delicate little composite flowers that can be almost any colour of the rainbow. With such variety, you’ll never tire of asters! Aster novaea-angliae and Aster novi-belgii are the most familiar ones. Other gems are the unusual dark-leafed Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis or a Heath aster, Aster ericoides ‘Lovely’, covered entirely with tiny pink flowers.

Did you know that… Michaelmas daisies flower from August until the first ground frost? These profusely flowering plants will keep the border beautiful even longer.

Beds and borders

Michaelmas daisies sparkle in beds and borders when combined with other perennials. Try placing colourful asters next to Crane’s bill (Geranium), Knotweed (Persicaria amplexicaulis), Fairy Candle (Actaea simplex) and Monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii). There are so many kinds of asters that it would be easy to use them to make an entire aster border. Try to alternate light and darker colours as much as possible, and arrange large-flowered varieties next to smaller-flowered ones. This way, you’ll automatically get beautiful combinations when the stems intertwine as they grow.

Good companions

Michaelmas daisies look especially nice against plants with a more open habit. For this reason, ornamental grasses are at the top of the list as good companions. You could plant Aster novii-belgii, for example, next to a large clump of ornamental grass known as Molina arundinacea ‘Windspiel’. The yellow autumn colour of the grass creates a striking background for the complementary colour – violet – of the asters. Other suitable ornamental grasses would include Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) and Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima).

Planting and care

Michaelmas daisies are strong reliable perennials that emerge and flower year after year. Flowering Michaelmas daisies can be planted immediately in the garden in the autumn. It’s easier to determine where the plants will look their best when they are flowering, but they can also be planted in the spring. A location in full sun or light shade will promote profuse flowering. Asters prefer loose rich soil. Simply trimming away any dead stems in the spring is all the care they need.

Tips

  • Aster ageratoides is one of the sturdiest species; this Michaelmas daisy will actually thrive anywhere. ‘Starshine’ is a compact variety (50-60 cm) and starts producing hundreds of white star-like flowers in August. ‘Asran’, 70-80 cm tall, produces bluish-purple flowers until sometime in October.
  • Low-growing varieties of A. dumosus form a cushion of bright violet-blue flowers. This makes them a perfect choice for a small garden.

Did you know that… Michaelmas daisies are included in the top 10 butterfly plants? Their late-season flowering period makes them attractive to bees and butterflies. These colourful flutterers will often be seen sipping the nectar from the flowers.

This perennial dies back to below ground level each year in autumn, then fresh new growth appears again in spring.

  • Position: full sun or partial shade
  • Soil: well-cultivated, fertile, moist soil
  • Rate of growth: average
  • Flowering period: August to October
  • Hardiness: fully hardy
    A strong growing New York aster that rarely succumbs to mildew, but does produce a dazzling display of bright mauve-pink daisies (which can be near-singles to semi-doubles) in late summer and autumn. The flowers are attractive to bees and the resulting seedheads can attract birds, so this is a gem for wildlife-friendly schemes. It will be equally at home in cottage garden borders, or more naturalistic planting schemes where it will associate well with ornamental grasses.
  • Garden care: Stake with bamboo canes or brushwood in early spring. Water regularly during dry spells and deadhead to prolong flowering. After flowering cut the flowered stems to the ground and apply a generous mulch of well-rotted garden compost or horse manure around the base of the plant. Seedlings rarely come true to the parent plant, but asters are one of the easiest plants to take cuttings from. All you need to do is pull away sideshoots that have already rooted. These can then be potted up individually or planted directly in to the garden. Lift and divide clumps every 2 – 4 years to

Michaelmas Daisies | Plant Profile

Michaelmas Daisies.

If your garden needs a shot in the arm as the days get shorter and shorter, then these are another weapon in your floral arsenal. Combine them with the hardy Chrysanthemums, Rudbeckias, Schizostylis and hardy Fuchsias to make the Autumn garden as bright as it is in high Summer.

These traditional cottage garden plants have a place in all our hearts. They herald the approach of Autumn where their large sprays of daisy-like flowers are produced so prolifically in a multitude of colours, from white right through to deepest violet.

Modern varieties come in all shapes and sizes ranging from 15 cm to nearly 2 metres (6”-6’). – so in short, a garden without these is lacking something. There is one for all but the most difficult sites. Needing little care, and spreading rapidly, they are simplicity itself.

Easily grown in the cottage garden.

They prefer a sunny site and, with careful choosing of the correct varieties, can flower from August until October. Good garden soil is essential as stressed plants tend to succumb to mildew. It is a wise precaution to give them a quick fungicidal spray two or three times during the growing season, when you do your roses, to keep this in check.

There are predominantly two types of Michaelmas Daisy, the New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae ) and the New York Asters (Aster novi-belgii).

The New England Asters tend to be slightly more ragged in appearance but never need staking and are totally mildew free!

The New York Asters come in a much, much wider range of colours and heights but can sometimes, but not always, be prone to mildew.

Easy and reliable.

The smaller flowered species Asters.

Both types are virtually bomb proof, withstanding even severe frosts for weeks on end. As with most cottage garden plants they really need lifting, splitting and replanting every three or four years. The best bits to replant (in a loose circle) are the vigorous shoots from the edges… discard the old woody centres. Just when you think there can be nothing better to say about these, how about the fact that they make excellent cut flowers and are one of the best insect friendly groups available, loved especially by bees. Late flowers being vital to our winged honey factories to help them through the Winter. Oh and just to confuse you the RHS in their infinite wisdom have just renamed them as Symphyotrichum. Nothing in this life is easy…. I think that it might be changed back in a few years… what a mouthful!! More info here

Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’

New England aster Interesting Notes

Purple Dome New England aster is a refined plant for the garden border with its symmetrical, compact mounded form reaching only 2’ tall. In early autumn, it is covered with dense clusters of purple, daisy-like, semi-double flowers. While this aster can have late season foliar problems, its dense floral displays and short stature make up for this shortcoming. Purple Dome New England aster grows in sun to filtered shade and performs best in moist, well-drained soil, though it is tolerant of short dry periods. It combines well with Solidago caesia, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Rudbeckia fulgida, and Coreopsis grandiflora. – Mt. Cuba Center

If you have never seen a mass of Aster ‘Purple Dome’ in full flower, then you haven’t yet lived…horticulturally speaking! From Dr. Dick Lighty, former Director of the Mt. Cuba Center, Delaware, comes this wonderful selection of our drought-tolerant native New England aster. The 18″ stems of fuzzy, narrow, green leaves are topped in early fall with vivid, 1.5″ wide, shocking purple daisies…so thick you can’t see the foliage. Aster ‘Purple Dome’ will eventually spread to 3′. Planted en masse, the effect is indescribable! – Plant Delights

A compact, floriferous variety that provides a burst of color in the late season landscape. Excellent mildew resistance.

Purple Dome Aster flowers

Purple Dome Aster flowers

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Purple Dome Aster in bloom

Purple Dome Aster in bloom

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 18 inches

Spread: 3 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 2b

Other Names: New England Aster, Michaelmas Daisy

Ornamental Features

Purple Dome Aster has masses of beautiful purple daisy flowers with yellow eyes at the ends of the stems from late summer to late fall, which are most effective when planted in groupings. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its narrow leaves remain dark green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Purple Dome Aster is a dense herbaceous perennial with a mounded form. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your yard, but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Disease

Purple Dome Aster is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Container Planting

Planting & Growing

Purple Dome Aster will grow to be about 18 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 3 feet. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.

This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers to grow in average to moist conditions, and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This is a selection of a native North American species. It can be propagated by division; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Purple Dome Aster is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It is often used as a ‘filler’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination, providing a mass of flowers against which the thriller plants stand out. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

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