Michaelmas Daisies are regarded by some gardeners as plants which can be left to look after themselves, bearing pink or lavendereach autumn on 3 ft . Such views are either wrong or incomplete. The is certainly not a trouble-free plant – powdery and other diseases can be a serious problem and the staking of tall varieties will be necessary. All types apart from A. amellus need lifting every other year and the centre of the clump discarded -only the healthy outer sections should be replanted. Pink and lavender may be the popular colours but they are certainly not the only ones, and there are giants and dwarfs as well as the favourite 3 and 4 ft varieties. General care consists of mulching in May, in dry weather, dead-heading regularly and down the once flowering is over.
VARIETIES: The true Michaelmas Daisy is A. novi-belgii and the most popular varieties belong here. The height range is 2-4 ft and the planting distance is ½ ft. Flowering occurs in September and October. The stems are smooth and the branched flower-heads bear many blooms. Well-known varieties include ‘Ada Ballard’ (3 ft. lavender-blue), ‘Crimson Brocade’ (3 ft. double, red), ‘Marie Ballard’ (3 ft. double, blue), ‘Royal Velvet’ (2 ft. violet-blue) and ‘Winston S. Churchill’ (2.5 ft. rich ruby). There are also dwarf varieties for the front of the border – look for ‘Snowsprite’ (1 ft. white), ‘Jenny’ (1 ft. red) and Audrey’ (1.5 ft. mauve). A. novae-angliae varieties are another large group – taller and stiffer than the A. novi-belgii ones. The stems are hairy and the flower-heads wide spreading – ‘Harrington’s Pink’ (5 ft. pink) is the one you are most likely to see. There are a number of interesting Asters which are not true Michaelmas Daisies. A. amellus grows about 2 ft high and bears its largein August and September. The favourite is the violet-blue’King George’ – pink ‘Lady Hindlip’ is also recommended. A. frikartii (2.5 ft) blooms even earlier, in July, and so does the grey-leaved A. thomsonii ‘Nana’ (1.5 ft).
SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do – thrives best in full sunlight.
A. novae-angliae Harrington’s Pink’
A. thomsonii Nana’
PROPAGATION: Divide clumps in autumn or spring.