Upton's National Aster Collection

view of the grass path alongside the aster flowers, seen through an archway of ivy

We have grown and looked after a National Collection of asters and Symphyotrichum species since 1985. We grow three particularly important species A. amellus, S. cordiofolius and S. ericoides, and many cultivars.

A flourishing collection

Miss Elizabeth Allen started to propagate and cross pollinate asters from the 1940s for more than 50 years and grew a large range of cultivars. To maintain the collection, these were then distributed between several gardens  - Upton being one of them. Other species went to Paul Picton’s garden at Malvern and some to a private garden near Leeds.

The collection was only finally recognised when it came to Upton and was then classed as such by the National Council for the Conservation of Plants & Gardens, now known as ‘Plant Heritage’.

Asters at Upton

The collection is planted on the West side of the Kitchen garden in three rows so that the plants can be viewed whilst they are in flower. We also have the best cultivars planted in a traditional mixed border together with other late flowering plants to give autumn colour and structure. Asters and Symphyotrichum 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 collection consists of three species of aster amellus, S. cordifolius, and S. ericoides with nearly 100 different cultivars between them.

Aster amellus

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.

Part of the National Aster Collection at Upton, this is Aster amellus Empress
Close up of Aster ammelus Empress
Part of the National Aster Collection at Upton, this is Aster amellus Empress

Symphyotrichum cordifolius

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.

Part of the National Aster Collection at Upton, Symphytrichum cordifolius Blutenregen
Close up of Aster Symphyotrichum cordifolius
Part of the National Aster Collection at Upton, Symphytrichum cordifolius Blutenregen

Symphyotrichum ericoides

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.

Symphotrichum Ericodies along the Aster border
Aster Symphotrichum Ericodies with label
Symphotrichum Ericodies along the Aster border

Come along to see the collection for yourself, it is a sight not to be missed in late September.