“Desperate for Asters”

Aster 'Professor Anton Kippenberg'
Aster ‘Professor Anton Kippenberg’

Yesterday I had a lovely day out with my friend Victoria.  Firstly we went to Hampton Court which I blogged about last week but the main purpose for our excursion was because Victoria was “desperate” to buy Asters and was despairing of finding any apart from the bulk standard dwarf varieties that you find in garden centres.  I had promised her a trip to Old Court Nursery over the hill from me in Colwall which is home to a national collection of Aster novae-angliae and is known for the variety of asters it grows, breeds and sells.

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We were a little early in the aster season to see the national collection in full flower but they should look amazing in a week or so.

Michaelmas Daisy Fairy
Michaelmas Daisy Fairy

Throughout the garden are willow sculptures by local sculptor Victoria Westaway and I particularly like the Michaelmas Daisy Fairy which is a centrepiece.

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I was intrigued to visit the Picton Garden as I know Helen and Ross have had a major overhaul and the last time I was there in late April/early May the majority of the garden was bare soil where Ross had been clearing with a digger. At the time I thought they were mad but as you can see from the photos in this post they weren’t and the planting is stunning considering how recently it was put in.

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I love the way they have planted the asters amongst other late summer perennials including grasses to show how well they work in a mixed herbaceous border. The aster, Japanese anemone and crocosmia combination above was one of my favourites.

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You can see how well the aster work with grasses and it is a pity they aren’t incorporated more into the new perennial plantings schemes, often called prairie planting.

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The planting also reinforced my feeling that I need more blues and yellows/oranges in my borders. We were meant to be looking at varieties that might work in Victoria’s garden and I wanted to get some shorter varieties to go in front of some tall asters I had bought a few years back who needed their feet disguised but I was so distracted by the planting I kept forgetting to look at particular plants.

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We did notice that some varieties were more prone to sprawling than others so would be in need of staking more.  In my garden where tall plants seem to mysteriously develop a leaning nature I have to be wary of the taller plants or deploy a lot of stakes so the more self-supporting varieties are needed.  Some of the varieties that sprawl seem to do it more gracefully than others and it is therefore good to see them growing in a mixed herbaceous border so you can see how they grow and which will suit your own garden best.

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I am pleased to report that we came away with a car full of plants and both pleased with our purchases.

Autumnal Asters: A Garden Visit

Today was one of those real autumnal days with the mists hanging in the air until  lunchtime, everything damp and the leaves beginning to take on their autumnal hues.  I have been meaning to visit Old Court Nurseries to buy some more Asters for the Daisy Border and discovered that today was their last open day of the year so instead of struggling with damp soil and wet leaves I popped over the hill to Colwall for a quick visit.

Old Court Nurseries is renown for Asters which are displayed in the Picton Garden adjacent to the nursery. Today the garden was also open for the NGS and the car park was quite full despite the mistiness and cold snap in the air.  I have only visited at the start of the Aster season before so it was particularly interesting to visit at the end for a change.

Whilst the gardens feature Asters there is also an interesting collection of Acers and other shrubs which looked good in the Autumn.  As you can see, despite these photos being taken at 1pm, it still looks quite  fresh and damp due to the mist just clearing.  I did like this combination of the dark Acers with the light leaved shrub in front although I forgot to see what it was called since my focus was on the Asters.

I really noticed this visit the range of flower size as well as flower colour of Asters.  The Asters I bought two years ago have larger flowers like the one in the above photograph.  I  think this grouping shows how good Asters are with Rudbeckias and grasses, a lovely late summer combination.

However, I found myself more attracted to the tinier flowers such as Aster cordifolius  ‘Elegans’ and my favourite Aster at home is the Aster umbellatus, a species variety with tiny white flowers.  They are daintier and less brash,  compared to Echinacea and Rudbeckias you couldn’t really call any Asters loud and I find myself drawn more and more to these quieter and gentler flowers.

But The Picton Gardens isn’t all Asters, although nearly, there is a tropical feel in one area with large bamboos, a huge Tetrapanex papyrifera and more wonderful Acers.

The garden is quite small and consists  of a series of smaller areas linked by paths which twist and turn making the space feel much larger.  It is a real late summer/autumn garden.

So if you are in Worcestershire/Herefordshire next year in late summer/early Autumn I would recommend stopping off at Pictons  and maybe buying some Asters,  a plant which I think we should be planting more of.