The Plant Lover's Guide to Asters by Paul PictonThe Plant Lover's Guide to Asters by Paul Picton

The Plant Lover's Guide to Asters

byPaul Picton, Helen Picton

Paper over Board | April 19, 2015

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The daisy-shaped flowers of asters are in bloom from late summer into fall and are available in shades of white, pink, purple, and blue. Native to American habitats like meadows, prairies, thickets, and swamps, asters can be grown in a huge range of climates. The Plant Lover’s Guide to Asters, by nursery owners Paul and Helen Picton, highlights 101 species and cultivars that are readily available in garden centers. Featuring information on growth, care, and design, along with suggested companion plants and hundreds of gorgeous color photographs, it covers everything a home gardener needs to introduce these delightful plants into their garden.
Paul Picton is a specialist grower of autumn-flowering asters. Paul started working alongside his father, Percy, at Old Court Nurseries when he was sixteen and has been surrounded by asters his entire life. The Picton family continues to operate both Old Court Nurseries and the Picton Garden in Herefordshire, England. With more than fi...
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Title:The Plant Lover's Guide to AstersFormat:Paper over BoardDimensions:248 pages, 9 × 8 × 0.75 inPublished:April 19, 2015Publisher:Timber PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1604695188

ISBN - 13:9781604695182

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Read from the Book

Introduction: Why We Love Asters In this book, we hope to introduce you to the fantastic world of asters, arguably the ultimate easy-to-grow plants, providing late-season colour for plant lovers in temperate regions around the world. Asters bring to life the garden designer’s dream of soft-coloured autumnal mists, sweeping gently through the landscape.      Gardeners are undoubtedly among the luckiest people, particularly in having such a wide choice of plants readily available to allow indulgence in their passion. The large numbers of asters offered by commercial sources can make the job of choosing a few varieties to grow a lengthy, sometimes confusing, but invariably pleasurable experience.      Whether your planting scheme is formal, more naturalistic, or even truly wild, it is easy to find asters to suit it. Varieties of Symphyotrichum novi-belgii, for instance, with their dense mass of flowers, lend themselves to a more formal setting, as do the large-flowered European asters where their more compact habits can be put to good use. Smaller flowered species and cultivars can be easily incorporated into naturalistic planting schemes, where a billowing cloud of flowers blurs the formal lines of borders and clumps. Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’, with its generous sprays of lavender-blue flowers, is extensively used in this way; S. ‘Ochtendgloren’ is a superb counterpart with pink flowers; and S. ‘Oktoberlicht’ brings white flowers to this trio of time-tested plants. It is of no use trying to contain these varieties within trimmed hedges, as sprays will inevitably lean over and soften the stark lines.      You can achieve striking combinations by using large-flowered or bold-coloured varieties alongside the soft forms of the small-flowered asters. The glorious, large, deep lavender-blue flowers of Aster amellus ‘King George’ appear even bolder positioned in front of the soft creaminess of Symphyotrichum ericoides ‘Golden Spray’. You can take a step further with certain asters that spread vigorously, S. laeve ‘Vesta’ to add a name, which will quite happily compete with ornamental grasses and other herbaceous plants in wild planting schemes, providing an eruption of colour late in the growing season.      You can also find asters to stand alone to catch the garden visitor’s eye, with a beacon of colour. It is easy to visualize a group of Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Andenken an Alma Porsche’ flaming away with uniquely vibrant flower colour in an otherwise rather tired and drab late autumn border. Other varieties might be better suited to large groups forming drifts of cloud-like, star-studded sprays. A group of flowering asters will attract bees and butterflies into the garden, and later on the seedheads will be appreciated by small songbirds. A row of asters planted in the cutting border or vegetable plot will provide generous sprays of cut flowers right from the first year. Even in our over-sophisticated era, such floral riches are still gathered from gardens to decorate churches around the twenty-ninth of September, Michaelmas Day, when harvest festivals take place. Although some asters bloom in the spring and early summer, such as Aster alpinus and A. coloradoensis, the vast majority are autumn flowering. Asters, the stars of autumn, brave Mother Nature’s frosty winter fingers to bring the growing season to a close with a loud, vibrant tapestry of colour rather than the murmur of mellow colour we would otherwise be left with as an introduction to winter. Asters also work well within the increasing trend of growing plants in containers. Given the housing situation in the twenty-first century, plenty of enthusiastic plant lovers have tiny gardens or no real garden at all. Young asters can be used to plant up containers in the spring and will provide a colourful display in the autumn months. A handful of shoots from a friend with a garden can be potted to grow on for the same effect. Varieties of Symphyotrichum novi-belgii are fully at home in containers and offer the widest range of colours and heights to suit all tastes. With the right timing, they also take stopping or pinching back to produce more bushy plants.      Asters present an array of floral colours so subtle that it can be difficult to precisely describe (ok, white is not a problem!) and can sometimes be just as tricky to photograph. Although digital photography has proved to be an immensely useful tool to the publishers of plant catalogues, websites, and gardening books, even the best photography will struggle to represent the soft, foamy, must-touch appeal of a group of small-flowered asters, such as Symphyotrichum ericoides ‘Golden Spray’, or a flower colour falling somewhere between blue and violet with a hint of pink. Remember that the elusive colour tints of many aster flowers will be enhanced by the early morning and evening light when the autumnal sun is low in the sky, and will appear quite different in midday sunlight.      In this book, we have described a selection of old and new varieties that we deem exceptionally garden-worthy. Whether you are new to the gardening world or an old hand, we hope you will find useful information here on the practicalities of growing asters and using them in your garden. But before advancing any further one major point needs to be covered: What exactly are we talking about when we say “aster?”      Up until the mid-1990s, all plants within this group were members of a single genus, Aster. Genetic work carried out by John Semple and his team at the University of Waterloo in Canada over a period of forty years led to a re-evaluation of the relationship of these plants and as a consequence the names used for them. Because of this work, there are now thirteen different genera in North America, including Symphyotrichum and Eurybia, but no Aster. However, Aster still holds its place as the scientific name for the European and Asiatic species and their garden hybrids. This reclassification was adopted in America early on in the scientific and commercial horticultural worlds, whereas the United Kingdom lagged behind in both fields. It is only now that we are adopting the same system as America, meaning that finally we are all using the same names.      The new naming system has made it difficult to discuss as a group the plants that bring such joy to our gardens in the late summer and autumn, despite the visual similarities. By a stroke of good fortune—or, perhaps it was sound thinking—The Flora of North America and official websites retain the name of aster in the form of popular or local plant names. For example, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae is still known as New England aster and S. cordifolium can be called blue wood aster. In the United Kingdom, these common names are not so familiar with the majority of autumn-flowering asters being lumped under the common name of Michaelmas daisy. However, since the name change is very recent, in this Plant Lover’s Guide, we have taken the small liberty of leading with the well-known name of “Aster.” Working on the same basis that a book entitled “Dogs” would be more attractive to readers than one entitled “Canis lupus familiaris.” We hope this will allow us to be understood on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Editorial Reviews

“The Pictons are passionate experts in the field…Their book, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Asters recommends the best varieties and designs for different growing conditions, along with color combinations that work well, and in-depth advice on planting and maintenance.” —NYBG Plant Talk