Does anyone grow asters anymore? I don’t mean the hardy perennial ones; there are currently six National Collections of those listed in the Directory. No, I mean the half hardy annual ones which seem to have been grown by great grandfathers in my case and father-in-laws in the case of Judith, our book-keeper. I don’t generally see them as cut flowers for sale and yet they make a good display both in the garden and in a vase.
In the back work room of the library at RHS Wisely, where I work as a volunteer, there is a pile of seed packets taken from the front of magazines destined for the library shelves. They are for the taking and I was attracted by the packet of Mr Fothergills Aster ‘Duchess Mixed’. Although I have always grown from seed, I have had the idea that annuals are a bit of a faff, so other than sweet peas have avoided them. But a couple of years ago I took down a large tree and released about 120 square metres of garden which needed filling. So I started experimenting with annuals.
These asters have been blooming their socks off for about a month now and with wonderful sugared almond colours. I wasn’t too keen on the yellow shown on the seed packet, but none of that colour have emerged. They don’t seem to be attractive to slugs and snails and with the proviso that a little support would be beneficial, I will be saving some seed for next year. So my visitors and National Office at Loseley have had colour coordinated bunches, to show them the merits of this, to me, unknown plant.