Aster “China” also known as Callistepus & Michaelmas Daisy
Half Hardy Annual
Nine inches to two feet.
Flowers of many colours in August and September.
The Aster, by its variety of colour and habit,
and its flowering rather late in the season, is
one of the most useful annuals. In seed catalogues
some thirty or forty different kinds may be found,
but for practical purposes they may be classed
under four or five heads: the Victoria, with reflexed
flowers; the Pæony-flowered, with incurved
petals; the Globe or Quilled; and the Dwarf section.
Recent sub-divisions of these are the Japanese
or Comet, with petals resembling those of a Japanese
Chrysanthemum, and the Crown or Cockade, with
a white centre bordered with colour. For bedding,
the dwarfs give the least trouble, as they are
self-supporting; the taller sorts have more effective
flowers, but their more straggling growth is sure
to demand sticks and ties before they are fully
blown. It is one sad defect of all Asters that
the thick-petalled, upturned face of the flower
is over-loaded by every shower of rain, and one
wet and blowing night will wreck a whole bed beyond
repair. The range of colour includes white, several
shades of blush and lilac, light and dark blue
(as the catalogues call it) – really a hyacinthine
purple – yellowish white, pink and rose,
and two or three shades of crimson, one, at least,
a very poor bricky colour to begin with, and after
a few days’ weather positively offensive.
The tribe is a healthy one, but is often affected
after being planted out with a blight or curl
in the leaves, which disfigures and no doubt checks
the growth of the plants, but does not seem ultimately
to affect their flowering.
Asters should be sown in boxes of light soil,
a mixture of old leaf-mould, old turf and road-scrapings,
and garden mould (say a fourth of each), with
a dash of wood-ashes, and enough sharp sand to
keep the whole open.
Drain the boxes with pieces of crock, and lay
moss and half-rotted leaves over the latter. Cover
the seed lightly with fine, sandy soil, water
gently, and place in a frame with a temperature
kept as near 55° as possible.
This should be about the middle of March; when
the seedlings are large enough to handle prick
them out in other boxes or on a bed of light soil
under glass; by attention to ventilation and bottling
up the sun’s rays at proper times, a “cold”
frame will do very well to grow on the asters
and other annuals sown about the same time.
Keep the boxes and the soil in frames clear of
weeds, and scratch it over occasionally to discourage
the formation of green mould on the surface.
About the third week in May, when the asters are
sufficiently hardened by exposure to the open
air, they may be planted out. It is worth while
to take a little extra pains with the trowel,
and transfer them with as much earth on the roots
as can be retained; a good watering of the boxes
or nursery beds an hour or two before the operation
will make this easier.
The beds in which the asters are to flower should
be light and rich, but must on no account contain
fresh or rank manure.
If, as is usually their fate, the Asters have
to follow the spring bedders which are just cleared
off, an effort must be made to refresh and replenish
the more or less exhausted soil.
Leaf-mould, old hot-bed manure and plenty of wood-ashes
should be worked into the ground, and as long
an interval of rest as is practicable given between
the two tenancies. If there is not a good soaking
rain before it is time to replant, the beds must
be thoroughly watered and allowed to settle.
Those who have not the convenience of a hot-bed
or greenhouse may raise excellent Asters by sowing
in April under some sort of protection –
a cold frame, a hand-light, a bell-glass or even
an old window-sash on a rough wooden framing.
An excellent shelter for forwarding seeds or
plants may be made by digging out a shallow pit
in a sunny position, banking up the excavated
soil into a sort of parapet, and with a few stumps
driven into the ground and boards nailed to them,
forming a rough support for a garden light or
It is possible, by sowing later still, to have
Asters without any shelter at all. Make up a piece
of light rich soil, sunny but not droughty, and
early in May sow thinly in shallow drills about
nine inches apart, covering the seed with a little
light compost or potting soil.
In a fair season one may by this plan get remarkably
fine flowers late in the season. Of course, no
time should be thinned out to six or eight inches
apart and left to flower where they were sown
See Also : Michaelmas