Fleabane – Erigeron – Country garden flowers

Fleabane has bright, daisy-like flowers, perfect for borders in a cottage garden. It can also be used as a ‘dot’ plant to provide spots of colour.

Modern varieties are robust and reliable.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March-April:

Mulch the plants.

May:

Support the growing plants with bamboo or hazel twigs. Take softwood cuttings to increase your stock of plants.

Sow seeds into boxes of compost in a greenhouse.

SUMMER

June:

The early-flowering varieties are in full bloom.

Remove dead flowers, to encourage a second flush of blooms. Thin out seedlings. July-September: The later varieties come into their own.

AUTUMN

October:

Cut stems down to the ground. Start planting new varieties, in groups of about 5, about 40cm apart. Young plants from seed sown in the spring can be moved to their final position.

WINTER

November-March:

Continue planting new varieties. Divide established clumps if the flowers have been scanty during the summer, or if you want to increase your stocks. ‘Foerster’s Liebling’ create a marvellous country look grown with timeless geraniums like the pink G. endressii, pink penstemons and verbenas, and pinks such as ‘White Ladies’ or ‘Mrs Sinkins’. Put lupins such as ‘The Chatelaine’, phlox and pale pink astilbe at the back of the border. Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and Scabiosa caucasica, both lavender blue, set off ‘Serenity’, ‘Dunkelste Aller’ (’Darkest of All’) and ‘Dignity’. E. speciosus var. macranthus is a deep blue. Pale blue veronicas and blue or white campanulas go well with this fleabane. –

FELL IN THE CRACKS

E. karvinskianus has thin wiry stems and produces flowers all summer long.

It is excellent for filling in the cracks between paving slabs or around steps, as it seeds itself freely and is only 10-15cm high. It even grows well in wall crevices. It thrives in sandy, infertile soil. Plant early on in the year to get it off to a good start.

POPULAR VARIETIES

Variety, Colour, Height, Flowering

E. alpinus, lilac-pink, 25cm, June August

E. aumntiacus, orange, 15 30cm, June-August

E. aureus, gold, 5 10cm, June-July

E. philadelphicus, pink, 45cm, July August

E. speciosus var macranthus, deep blue, 60cm, all summer

E. karvinsfdanus, white, pink, 10 15cm, June-August ‘Amity’, lilac-pink, 60cm, June August ‘Charity’, pale pink, 60cm, June August ‘Dignity’, violet-pink, 45cm, June August ‘Dunkelste Aller’, (’Darkest of All’), deep violet, 45 60cm, June August ‘Foerster’s,

Liebling’, deep pink, 45cm, June-August ‘Prosperity’, light blue, 45cm, June -August

There are 200 species of fleabane, covering annual, biennial and perennial plants. The daisy-like flowers of the modern hybrids have yellow centres fringed with masses of florets, like rays from the sun.

Colours range from pink and mauve to blue and purple. There are also yellow and orange types. The lance-shaped leaves grow up to 10cm long and are olive to grey-green.

The fleabane varies from rampant weeds such as blue fleabane with its small mauve flowers, growing by the road or on wasteland, and the rock aster, Erigeron glaucus, a familiar sight on cliffs near the sea, to excellent perennial border plants such as the lilac-pink ‘Quakeress’ and the pale pink ‘Charity’. They all belong to the same family of Compositae.

Modern varieties have been bred with larger flow¬ers in more distinctive colours than the older species. They start flower¬ing in May and continue to September. Plant growth is also more vigorous. The taller varieties make partic¬ularly good cut flowers.

A hint of nostalgia

Fleabane has been popular for many years as a ‘cottage garden’ flower. E. philadelphicus, with its succession of small pink flowers, is well loved by many gardeners. The old variety ‘Quakeress’, lilac-pink, the pale pink ‘Charity’ and the deep pink semi-double

IMPORTANT

You can grow fleabane from seed. In spring, sow seeds 6mm deep into boxes of compost in a greenhouse. Germination takes 14-21 days. You can also sow seed directly into a seedbed. Thin seedlings to 15cm apart when they are large enough to handle. In autumn, move them to their final spot. They will flower the next year.

Fleabane

SITUATION

Fleabane prefers a sunny site. It does well at the middle or front of a border, or in an ‘island’ display in the middle of a lawn. You can also plant it on its own, to give a spot of colour.

SOIL

Ordinary, well-drained soil, with humus or compost added. Does well on clay soils if the drainage is improved with composted straw and calcified seaweed.

CARE

Mulch the plants in spring. Support taller-growing varieties with bamboo or hazel twigs. Remove dead flower heads. Cut stems down to the ground in autumn.

LIGHT:

Sun or partial shade.

FLOWERING:

May-September.

HEIGHT: 10-60cm.

SOIL:

Humus-rich.

Erigeron ‘Prosperity’ flowers from June to August.

PLANT HEALTH

If your plants begin to produce fewer flowers after a number of years, they probably need to be lifted and divided, as the clump will have grown too dense.

Plants become woody when old. Dig up the whole clump, taking care not to damage the roots, then gently prise it apart. Replant only the strong and healthy outer sections. Discard the rest.

Some types of fleabane dislike winter damp and may suffer from mildew, so make sure that your soil is well drained.

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