I do admire the annuals that have been blooming since way back in late May but there comes a time when they look tired and you get tired of looking at them every day. At some point both parties are happy to affect the season change in the garden. There are a whole group of plants, particularly perennials, which reach their peak in autumn as they react to the shrinking amount of daylight that begins after the summer solstice. Perennial asters have been an autumn garden favourite for many decades; their ease of growth and sheer number of daisy blooms make them one of the most popular choices for this time of the year.
Asters need full sun to reach their peak flowering potential, so site them with a south or west exposure. Some types like Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ are quite drought tolerant but most appreciate regular moisture and good soil. Good air circulation is vital for keeping powdery mildew at bay, so don’t crowd the plants and cut down the foliage in late fall when frost has effectively ended their season. When plants come up again in spring pinch out the growing tips when the plants are six inches tall; this will create even more buds for later colour. Fertilize with 6-8-6 or similar in spring but don’t overdo it; too much lush growth will result in tall lanky plants. Perennial asters are hardy and will tolerate temperatures well into the -30’s.
Like many perennials asters look best when planted together in groups of three or more. There is a host of colours available in the red, violet, pink range-all with the familiar golden centres. Most modern varieties are quite compact and don’t require staking. All asters are lumped together and called Michaelmas Daisies. This refers to the hybridized plants which arose from two of the most popular species that bloomed around September 29, the same date as the English church holiday known as Michaelmas. The name has stuck to all fall-blooming asters.

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