Chinese Asters (C. chinensis) provide late summer and autumn colour in flower beds and long-lasting blooms for indoor decoration. The leaves are hairy and deeply lobed, and the flowers look like large Daisies or small Chrysanthemums. You will find a bewildering selection in the seed catalogues – dwarf and tall, single and double, and a wide variety of flower shapes and colours. Callistephus is almost hardy – it is usually bedded out in May but in mild districts the seeds can be sown outdoors in spring. Never grow this plant on the same spot year after year – there is a danger of disease. For really good results, spread a mulch around the stems, dead-head regularly and stake tall varieties.

VARIETIES: The Single group includes the old-fashioned types – ‘Super Chinensis’ (2 ft) is the one to choose. The Dwarf group is extremely useful where space is limited – pick ‘Milady’ (10 in.), ‘Pinocchio’(9in.)or’Pepite’(12in.).Attheotherendofthescaleisthe2/2ftTallgroup -’Princess Giant’, ‘Perfection’ and ‘Giants of California’. There are several flower forms – the Sa//group has fully double, globular flowers – ‘Miss Europe’ is a good example. The Chrysanthemum-flowered group includes the well-known ‘Duchess’ variety; the Ostrich Plume group with its feather-like petals is popular for bedding. Finally there is the button-like Pompon group which includes ‘Pirette’.

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do if adequate lime is present. Thrives in a sunny, sheltered spot.

PLANT DETAILS: Height 9 in.-2.5 ft.

Spacing: 9 in.-1.5 ft.

Flowering period: August-October.

PROPAGATION: Follow the Half Hardy Annual technique . Alternatively in mild areas sow seeds outdoors in mid April.

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