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.

A Week of Two Gardens

I am on annual leave this week using  up the last of my leave allowance and enjoying the late summer sunshine.  It has been a strange week and dominated by visits to two very different gardens.

As some of you may have picked up a group of 25 of us  UK garden bloggers/twitters visited Prince Charles’ garden at Highgrove yesterday.  Due to security no cameras etc were allowed so I can’t entertain you with photos.  It was fascinating to see the reactions of a group of knowledgeable gardeners and particularly fascinating as I had visited the garden two years ago with a very different group. On my previous visit I had felt frustrated as no  one was really engaging with the garden apart from in the ‘isn’t that nice’, ‘what’s that plant’ way.  I felt strongly about some aspects that I didn’t like but was a lone voice so had to just shut up so to speak.  Yesterday with a very lively group who weren’t afraid of saying what they thought I discovered that my impressions from two years before where shared by  others which was nice.  We had a lovely day, very entertaining and fun and no doubt there will be future trips.

In complete contrast the day before I visited a small  local garden – Picton Gardens. This garden is well known for housing the national collection of Michaelmas Daisies and only really opens for visitors from mid August to mid October.  The garden is only 10 minutes drive from my house and despite living in Malvern for 10 years I am ashamed to say I have never got there.  So as I had some spare time and I wanted some Asters for my bank I decided to go  and see what it was like.  To be honest my visit was several weeks too early as the majority of the flowers were still in bud.  They are after all called Michaelmas Daisies because they open around Michaelmas Day at the end of September!  However there were some open along with Echineacea, Solidago and Heleniums.  The garden also has a lot of grasses, bamboos, acers amongst other shrubs and it was interesting to see how these worked with the perennials.  There was one small area which really jarred for me – the Centenary Garden.  This included a lot of clipped purple berberis and I don’t know whether it was the colours of the berberis or the fact that I am not keen on topiary and low clipped hedges but I really didn’t like it.

The garden is not that big and doesn’t take long to go round and I spent nearly as long in the nursery selecting my Asters.  I don’t think I have ever seen so many in one area at the same time.  The nursery does a mail order service and I presume the vast quantities are to accommodate this.  I selected a Sanguisorba canadensis, I know that’s not an Aster but it is fab looking plant and will add height to the border.  I bought three Asters as a starting point – Sonia, St  Micheal and Umbellatus, hopefully they will do well and I can add to them in the future.

Unlike the merriment of visiting Highgrove I visited the Picton Gardens on my own and I always find that these solo visits are much quicker as there is  no one to say ‘What do you think of that?’ etc to.  However, my primary reason for visiting Picton was to buy Asters so going on my own was fine but I am so glad that I  spent yesterday with the group I did as  I havent laughed so much in ages. Thank you all – you know who you are!