Aster x frikartii 'Monch'

Val Bourne

If you had to grow only one aster it should be this one, Val Bourne explains why - and how to make the most of it.



‘Monch’ is an aster hybrid between two species found in dry places and it thrives in British gardens, unlike so many asters that are bred from American species found naturally in marsh-like conditions.

Many of these succumb to wilt, mildew and generally look miserable in British gardens.

One parent is Aster amellus, the Italian starwort, and the other is a Himalayan species called Aster thomsonii found on dry woodland edges. Neither are that spectacular on their own, although both have grace, a long-flowering season and an ability to colonise dry places.

Where to plant

Aster x frikartii 'Monch' reaches 3ft (90cm) and can be grown in any sunny border in good soil. It has a slightly lax habit which makes it an excellent plant for the border front.

However, it does not need staking. Its rough, dark-green foliage looks handsome by early summer. The arching stems are topped by violet-blue flowers, each with a double row of finely rayed petals set round a golden middle.

'Monch' will tolerate dry conditions and poor soil, but flower size and height shrink accordingly, so best to give it good soil.

How to plant

Asters generally prefer alkaline soil but ‘Monch’ will also need good drainage in winter. Those on heavier ground should add grit to the base of the hole when planting. However, sticky clay may prove a problem for this plant due to its alpine provenance.

When planting, choose an open site way from trees and add organic material to the planting hole. Either use good garden compost or add some soil-based John Innes no 3.

Feeding

Feed every spring with a slow-release fertiliser. I often use powdered chicken manure (branded as 6X) but blood, fish and bone is also good.

When it flowers

Aster x frikartii 'Monch' flowers from July until late September (at least) and it's resilient and healthy as it sends out sprays of large lavender-blue daisies - one after another.

When to divide

Ideally divide your clumps of Aster x frikartii 'Monch'every third year to keep them vigorous. Do this is in spring just as the plants are racing away. Do not divide or move in autumn - or you will probably lose it in a wet, cold winter. This is a good general rule for all late-flowering plants.

When to take cuttings

Softwood cuttings can also be taken in late spring and these will root easily with a little bottom heat, provided by an electric propagator. But most gardeners simply divide their plants instead.

Grow with…

The large pale, violet-blue daisies are flattered by stronger colours particularly orange-red and purple. Team it with upright plants like Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ a fiery-red branching flower head, heightened by bright-green pleated ‘swords’ for leaves. Or use July-flowering red hot pokers. They include the coral-red slender Kniphofia ‘Nancy’s Red’ and the acid-lemon - and more - substantial ‘Percy’s Pride.

This aster is versatile. It’s excellent used with later-flowering asters and grasses because it flowers before they get going. Or it can support dusky-coloured roses which might include David Austin’s rich-crimson rose ‘Darcey Bussell’. Or it can keep an early herbaceous border interesting for longer.

Where to buy

Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ is widely available or get it mail order from www.bethchatto.co.uk

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.