Asters, of a perennial habit, are a ‘must’ for the cut-flower grower. Very many of them are best known as michaelmas daisies, and the majority will stand quite casual, almost rough treatment. At the same time, few plants respond so readily to a little extra attention. To obtain a really fine display of good-sized flowers a fairly rich soil, containing organic matter, should be provided and the plants can further be helped by giving a few applications of liquid manure when they are in full growth. Avoid hot, dry soils and draughty positions, both of which encourage mildew.

As the roots spread quickly, the plants should be divided every 3 years. Propagation is easy, and can be done by detaching strong outer portions of roots in the spring, although the best method is to secure cuttings in the early spring and pot them up, planting them in their flowering positions during April and May.

Aster amellus

The little alpinus varieties are good for cutting, although the flowers are short. The Aster amellus varieties from z to 2-4 ft high, have from August until October large single flowers, many of which are up to 2 in. across. All are excellent for cutting, as the stems remain upright without supports, unless grown in exposed windy places. There are many varieties in shades of blue and pink.

Aster acris grows 2-3 ft high, each stem having numerous small, star-shaped flowers with conspicuous yellow centres. A. ericoides is the name of another small flower group, the wiry, branching stems 2 ft high carrying large numbers of starry white flowers with golden centres. The leaves are small and pointed, and it is an excellent cut-flower plant.

A. cordifolius is another charming species with graceful arching stems so useful for indoor decoration. The variety ‘Silver Spray’ has really long sprays of silvery-lilac flowers. The majority of the Aster novaeangliae varieties are of little use for cutting. The variety ‘Harrington’s Pink’ is an exception. They like a good soil, containing plenty of organic matter. The Aster novae-belgii varieties are widely grown. The following are among the best, although some have been in cultivation for a good many years: ‘Apple Blossom’, a delightful shell pink; `Beechwood Triumph’, rosy-red; ‘Ada Ballard’, mauve-blue; `Blandie’ and ‘Choristers’, fine whites; ‘Crimson Brocade’; ‘Eventide’, violet-blue; ‘Festival’, orchid-purple; `Gayborder Royal’, bright purple; ‘Marie Ballard’, pale mauve-blue; ‘Plenty’, pale blue; ‘Royal Velvet’, violet; ‘The Cardinal’, rosy-red; ‘The Sexton’, light blue, and ‘Winston Churchill’, rich deep red.

Aster hybridus luteus, a hybrid between Aster acris and a Solidago (golden rod), produces from August onwards long sprays of small yellow flowers. Gathered when they are just opening, the blooms last a really long time in water.

A. linosyris is easy to grow, its 2-4-ft-stems being laden with deep sulphur-yellow flowers in September. It is excellent as a cut flower. The plants do not need staking.

Aster yunnanesis `Napsbury’ is not unlike an amellus variety. The blooms appear from late July on stems and are of a rich cornflower-blue colour with a conspicuous yellow centre. It does well in ordinary soil and full sun, but good treatment is well repaid.

Mention must be made of the dwarf perennial asters which are most effective in the front of the border, and which make excellent pot plants. They are best planted in April, and from early September onwards they give a really gorgeous display. Among the good varieties readily available and of which the flowers last well when cut are the following: ‘Nancy’, pink, 9 in.; ‘Victor’, lavender-blue, 6 in.; ‘Diana’, pale pink, 9 in.; ‘Remembrance’, lilac, 12 in.; Ilebe’, strawberry-pink, ro in.; ‘Margaret Rose’, rose-pink, 9 in., and ‘Vesta’, shell-pink, 9 in.

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