How to grow asters - Telegraph
Forms of Aster amellus (including 'Veilchenkönigin') and forms of Aster x frikartii (like 'Mönch') are best planted in spring rather than autumn unless you have very well-drained soil. They also need a sunny position. Varieties of A. amellus will need dividing every fourth or fifth year to maintain vigour. Lift in spring and pull into hand-sized pieces and replant in a fresh position about a foot apart. Add grit to
the base of the hole on heavy ground. Water until established. Cut down after flowering.
All asters are best divided in spring as new growth starts. Lift and then use two back-to-back forks to split the clump. Mind old stems, they can be sharp. Some varieties are denser and may need a knife or spade. Discard old woody pieces.
Asters are good value because their attractive buds are a feature long before their flowers. But you should combine them with spike or saucer shapes and avoid more daisies. 'Violet Queen' is very vibrant and I love to see it nudging against the fluffy beige awns of Pennisetum orientale. It's also good against the spires of pale pink and blush-white penstemons like 'Pearl' and 'Hidcote Pink'. Purple is also an excellent foil for lemon yellow.
Where to buy
Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants, Priory Lane Nursery, Freefolk Priors, Whitchurch, Hants RG28 7NJ (01256 896533)
Beth Chatto, Elmstead Market, Colchester, Essex, CO7 7DB (01206 822007)
Cotswold Garden Flowers, Sands Lane, Badsey, Worcs, WR11 7EZ (01386 422829)
- Asters | Old Court Nurseries and The Picton GardenAsters | Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden
- Aster Amellus 'Violet Queen' or 'Veilchenkönigin' (Italian Asters)
Aster 'Violet Queen' has now become 'Veilchenkönigin', reverting to the German name first chosen by its raiser Karl Foerster in 1956.
Whichever name you use, this vibrant purple aster is a wonderful addition to the late summer garden; its straight-rayed daisies are held on erect stems that reach just 15in high.
It is also a butterfly magnet, perfect for the front of a sunny border and it flowers generously from late August and throughout September.
Each flower has a thick layer of slender petals surrounding a tight golden eye reminding me of thickly coated purple mascara on a young girl.
'Violet Queen' is a selection from the Italian starwort Aster amellus.
The species name is thought to have come from the River Mella, an Italian tributary of the River Po.
This aster, now rare in the wild, can still be found on free-draining ground on sunny limestone slopes through central France, northern Italy, the Czech Republic and the Caucasus.
It was used medicinally as a decoction and a poultice by the Greeks and Romans for a variety of inflammatory ailments, which is possibly why it became rare.
The older variety 'King George' was raised by Amos Perry in 1914 and made Italian asters popular within months.
Apparently Perry intended to call his star plant 'Kaiser William' until history intervened so it became 'King George'. There are 30 named varieties of A. amellus, but I think 'Veilchenkönigin' is the most sparkling and pristine.
All amellus varieties are drought-tolerant and perform in well-drained soil.
This makes them useful in drier gardens where later-flowering North American asters either fail to thrive or develop mildew.
In 1918 Swiss nurseryman Carl Ludwig Frikart (1879-1964) also produced three drought-tolerant asters by crossing A. amellus with A. thomsonii – the latter a Himalayan aster. He named the seedlings after Swiss mountains and 'Eiger', 'Jungfrau' and 'Mönch' are still with us.
The finest is A. x frikartii 'Mönch' – surely the longest flowering aster bred.
It reaches 3ft tall but is slightly lax, with dark green foliage that flatters the loosely rayed lavender-blue flowers. These begin in early August and go on for months. Frikart also produced 'Wunder von Stäfa', but the one sold seems almost identical to 'Mönch'.
This difficult cross has rarely been repeated, in part due to the disappearance of the true A. thomsonii. But Alan Bloom did breed an excellent lilac pink 'Flora's Delight' in 1964 using
A. thomsonii 'Nanus' and the Twenties A. amellus 'Sonia'. It has greyer leaves and is less vigorous. He conceded "it needs well-drained soil to avoid loss from winter wet". 'Nocturne' is another variety with lilac flowers.
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