ASTER or MICHAELMAS DAISY

Showy Hardy Perennials for Late Summer and Autumn Display

(As'ter). Hardy perennial plants, suitable for the rock garden, herbaceous border and open woodland, which bear daisy-like flowers in summer and autumn. The most important are the Michaelmas Daisies, which are descended from plants found wild in North America and southern Europe. Most modern varieties of these have been raised in Great Britain and in other European countries. The Aster species that are suitable for rock gardens are natives of the mountains of Europe, Asia and North America. All belong to the Daisy family, Compositae. Aster is the Greek word for a star.

Perennial Asters are admirable garden plants which provide flowers from late in August until the end of October. In recent years innumerable new varieties have been raised which display a far wider range of coloring than the older ones. The flowers of modern Michaelmas Daisies range from white through lavender to purple and through pink and rose to crimson.

Asters vary in height from a few inches to 6 ft. The blooms of some are small and borne in profusion on branched spreading stems; those of others are larger and appear on the upper parts of stems of upright growth. They are valuable for garden display in late summer and autumn; most of them are useful for cutting and last fairly well indoors.

Garden varieties prefer a sunny place but will flourish in partial shade, as for example in a border facing east or west. Some of our wild native species such as A. cordifolius, A. divaricatus and A. Lowrieanus are woodland plants and prefer light shade.

Easily Grown Plants. Michaelmas Daisies are easy plants to grow. They thrive in ordinary, well-cultivated garden ground and soon spread into large clumps. They may be planted in early fall or spring. They should be left undisturbed for two or three years if large clumps are wanted.

How to Obtain the Finest Flowers. The way to obtain the finest flowers is to lift the plants every year in fall or spring, and separate them into rooted shoots. Each of these, if set out in well-tilled soil in a sunny or only slightly shady place, 15 in. apart, so that they have room to develop fully, will yield one large head of bloom in the autumn. A magnificent display is assured if plants treated in this way are set in groups of from five to ten plants. During the summer months the soil must be hoed frequently to keep down weeds, and each stem must be supported by a stake or bamboo cane. As soon as the flowers have faded, they should be cut off; otherwise they are likely to seed and produce inferior self-sown seedlings among the choice named varieties.

Thinning the Shoots and Staking. If Michaelmas Daisies are left undisturbed for 2 or 3 years the fresh shoots push through the soil in such large numbers that it becomes necessary to thin them out drastically. If this is not done, the plants will become thickets of growth, it will be difficult to support them adequately, and the blooms will be small. Large clumps of Michael-mas Daisies must be staked securely in early summer.

Propagation by Division. It is a very simple matter to increase the stock of Michaelmas Daisies by lifting the clumps in autumn or spring and separating each plant into five or six pieces. The outer parts of the clump only should be replanted.

The Different Types. The principal types of Michaelmas Daisies have been derived from the species A. Amellus, A. novae-angliae, A. novibelgii, A. ericoides and others.

The Amellus Asters. These grow 18 in. to 2 ft. high and in European gardens have proved grand plants for grouping at the front of the hardy flower border. In most parts of America they have been less satisfactory. Unlike the other types, they dislike being moved in autumn; they are best planted in spring and they take a year to become established, after which they flower freely from early September onwards in regions where they thrive.

Aster Amellus is a native of Italy. Notable among its varieties are King George, rich violet blue; Queen Mary, rich lavender; Herman Lons, mauve blue; Beaute Parfait, purple; Louise, deep pink; and Sonia, pink.

Novi-Belgii and Novae-Angliae Asters. Varieties of the novi-belgii type comprise by far the largest proportion of those grown, and every year their number is increased. Many of the modern sorts have exceptionally large single and semi double flowers in a variety of colors ranging from white, through shades of pink, mauve or lavender, to deep violet-blue, purple and crimson, while their heights vary from 2 1/2 ft. to 5 ft. Good varieties are numerous and will be found listed and described in dealers' catalogues; new varieties, the result of the plant breeders' efforts, are introduced almost yearly. Not many of the Michaelmas Daisies of the novae-angliae type are now grown, but Harrington's Pink, salmon-pink, 4 ft., is worth a place in any collection. Survivor, pink, 4 ft., is late-flowered and is one of the best, and the richly colored Barr's Pink is still one of the showiest.

Other Attractive Kinds. The small-flowered varieties of A. cordifolius, producing graceful sprays 4-5 ft. tall and good for cutting, are worth noting; so is A. linariifolius, with purple flowers in late fall. A. Kumleinii, 1 1/2 ft., bright blue, in September, is excellent. A. acris, with erect sprays of small, narrow-petaled, lavender flowers in August—September, 2-3 ft., is deservedly a favorite, and nana, 2 ft., is an even daintier form of it. A. Frikartii Wonder of Staffa, 2-3 ft., lavender-blue, summer; A. spectabilis, 2 ft., purple-violet, late summer; and A. tataricus, 6-8 ft., purple, late fall, are all good.

Dwarf or Cushion Michaelmas Daisies. This modern race, presumably derived from A. dumosus and other American species, grows only 9 to 12 in. high, forming compact masses of bloom in September—October. They are suitable for edgings and for grouping at the front of borders or in the rock garden. An old and good dwarf variety is the light lavender-flowered Mauve Cushion, a kind probably of Japanese ancestry.

For the Rock Garden. Of the Aster species suitable for the rock garden, perhaps the most important are A. alpinus, 6-9 in., large mauve flowers in May, and its varieties, albus, white; roseus, pink; and Goliath, large, blue-purple. Also outstanding are A. Farreri, 15 in., violet-purple; A. Forrestii, 7 in., lavender-blue, May; and A. diplostephioides, 15-18 in., mauve, June.

Yellow Michaelmas Daisies. The hybrid plant previously grown as Aster hybridus luteus, with sprays 2 ft. tall, of small yellow flowers, is now called Solidaster luteus. The dwarf Goldilocks, Linosyris vulgaris, up to 2 ft., bears sprays of small yellow flowers in late August. Both plants are sometimes referred to as yellow Michaelmas Daisies.



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