A flourishing collection
The first established Aster collection was started by Miss Elizabeth Allen in the 1940s. Over the next 50 years she established the largest collection of Asters in Britain and it was one of the first to be recognised by the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens.
To ensure the future of Miss Allen’s collection a new home was sought, where enough space and time could be dedicated to look after them. Upton House and Gardens was one such place, with other species going to Paul Picton’s garden at Malvern and some to a private garden near Leeds.
Asters at Upton
At Upton, the Asters are planted in a traditional mixed border, together with other late flowering plants to give autumn colour and structure. Asters bring the season of perennials to a climatic end, visited with a late flourish of hover flies, pollen seeking bees and drifts of passing butterflies.
The Aster collection at Upton consists of three species of Aster amellus, cordifolius, and ericoides with nearly 100 different cultivars between them.
Bred in the early 20th century with the introduction of King George in 1914, this has been one of the most popular cultivars ever since.
Its rich, purple-blue flowers are produced relatively early in September. Although purple-blue tones predominate, there are also pink-toned cultivars, such as A. ‘Jacqueline Genebrier’.
Like the true Michaelmas daisies A. amellus cultivars need frequent regeneration by lifting and dividing the clumps every few years.
The leaves are thin, dull green, slightly hairy and heart shaped. The flowers vary from pale violet-blue, to lavender and almost white, on thin, wiry stems and short branches forming graceful spires.
The best time to divide the plants is when the new shoots start to show above the ground. They will tolerate light shade and are resistant to mildew.
This species will tolerate a wide range of soils and summer droughts. They begin to flower in mid-autumn with many cultivars still looking good almost into winter, with softly coloured flowers on branching stems that arch up from healthy-looking mounds of foliage.
Esther is one of the most spectacular cultivars, with pale pink-toned-purple flowers, sometimes so freely borne that the plants need support. Other good cultivars are Pink Cloud, Blue Star and Golden Spray.
Come along to see the collection for yourself, it is a sight not to be missed in late September.