New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) do not suffer from mildew, like their close relatives the New York asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) do, and produce nectar-rich colourful blooms enjoyed by butterflies in the early autumn.
Where to plant
New England asters need an open, sunny situation, to match their name of ‘day’s eye’ or daisy, and their flowers will last for many weeks.
New England asters tend to be shallow-rooted so they do best in good, moisture-retentive soil although they aren’t fussy about pH. They will thrive in slightly alkaline or slightly acidic soils.
When to plant
Plant New England asters in spring or early summer.
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How to plant
Dig a hole about twice the size of your aster plant, and work in some all-purpose compost into the hole. Heel in and water well until the plant is established.
Generally they don’t need staking.
When they flower
New England asters flower from late summer into autumn.
When and how to divide
Divide every fifth year to keep your clumps vigorous, always in early spring just as the shoots emerge. Split them into six-inch wide clumps and replant them straight back into the ground spacing them 2 feet (60cm) apart.
Discard any inner pieces that look tired. It’s the outer sections of an established clump that generally get away best.
Regular division stops the lower leaves from browning, a trait of New England asters which can look shabby ‘below the knees’. The best way is to plant them behind shorter plants such as Rubdeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm' and R. fulgida var. deamii.
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When to deadhead
After flowering, it’s best to remove the spent flowers to prevent unwanted seedlings.
New England asters are very good for butterflies.
New England asters are a perfect addition to prairie planting, being tall and straight-stemmed.
Use them among taller grasses such as the golden toned, airy Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Karl Foerster’, the ramrod straight Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and the red-plumed Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’.
September-flowering partners might include the fluffy wine clouds of Eupatorium purpurea, the tall lemon-yellow daisy Helianthus ‘ Lemon Queen’ and the September-flowering, rich-blue monkshood Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ .
Yellows set of the purples and mauves and a refined golden rod, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ works well being of a similar height to most.
Daisies tend to dominate in autumn, try to separate them with with vertical accents whether it's tall grasses or later flowering kniphofias such as the yellow ‘Wrexham Buttercup’ and the crème caramel ‘Tawny King’.
Best New England aster varieties
A strong purple, named after the 3rd generation of the Picton family who are aster icons. They are based at Old Court Nurseries in Colwall, near Malvern, and this purple aster is new and wonderful. 120cm/ 4ft
An old variety, with neat, long-lashed slender purple ray florets surrounding a golden middle. Reliable 130cm/ over 4ft
'Andenken an Alma Pötschke'
A strident, raspberry-pink that really stands out from the crowd, although the ray petals curl and twist about a bit. You’ll either love it or hate it. (120cm/ 4ft)
Lots of ray petals, so this is always popular with gardeners and flower arrangers. The mid-pink flowers are supported by softer, paler green foliage. (140 cm/ 55in)
Purple-pink flowers on a taller plant. (140cm / 55in)
Large pink daisies on a shorter plant. A very good variety. 120cm/ 4ft
'Septemberrubin' (syn. ‘September Ruby’)
Purple-red flowers that appear earlier than many, for me at least. 130 cm/ 51 in
Where to see and buy
Waterperry Gardens www.waterperrygardens.co.uk / 01844 339226 (display borders in the garden)
Avondale Nursery www.avondalenursery.co.uk / 0797 909 3096 (also has a display garden and the Plant heritage Collection of New England asters)
The Picton Garden / www.autumnasters.co.uk / 01684 540416 (probably regarded as the best aster garden and nursery in the country)