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September's plant of the month is the aster

27 August 2013
September's plant of the month is the aster

September's plant of the month is the aster, also known as the Michaelmas daisy and a stalwart of the late-summer border with its cheery, daisy-like flowers in shades of mauve, pink and violet.

All asters flower for a satisfyingly long time, starting in late August and continuing often until the first frosts. They're much-loved by bees and butterflies, so perfect for the wildlife garden, and make wonderful cut flowers. What's more, they go with just about everything: perfect partners for late-summer perennials like achillea and echinacea, they also contrast beautifully with grasses like Deschampsia cespitosa.

There are several different kinds, from Aster novi-belgii in a dazzling range of colours to the ever-popular Aster x frikartii 'Monch' in lavender blue. Others to look out for are 'Little Carlow', with lilac-blue flowers on sturdy stems 1m tall; and robust Aster novae-angliae, the New England aster ('Harrington's Pink' is one of the best pale pinks).

Asters are generally low maintenance, sturdy enough not to need staking: modern varieties even shrug off mildew, once the only problem to which asters were prone. For the most prolific flowers put your asters in a sunny or part-shaded position, in fertile, well-drained soil and keep watered in dry spells.