There are certain genera that simply must be seen in flower before you buy them, and asters (or symphyotrichum as many of them have now become) are on that list. It is oh-so-easy to be swayed by glowing descriptions on labels or in catalogues, only to find that the colour and/or height weren’t quite what you were expecting, or that the habit is disappointing. There is no substitute for seeing the actual plant, talking to the person who has grown it, and there is no better place to do that than at a good plant fair. One of the best is held at Great Dixter Garden biannually, and the autumn event has just taken place.
I’m going to mention a few asters here because despite ticking all the boxes, sadly ‘Deep Danziger’ is not widely available. I bought it from Marina Christopher of Phoenix Perennials, who in turn, found it in a French nursery called Le Domaine de la Source (they sometimes exhibit at Great Dixter). A stunning white aster I also bought from Marina is ‘Monte Cassino’. Loved by flower arrangers, it has strong upright stems bedecked with clouds of tiny white flowers.
Another favourite is ‘Alma Potschke’, which has vivid cerise pink flower heads (somehow all these colours get along together in the autumn border); and everyone will vouch for ‘Little Carlow’ (AGM) … it isn’t exactly little (90cms) but forms a mound of almost luminous lavender blue flowers.
Last but by no means least (and not so easily sourced because it is apparently tricky to propagate), is Aster peduncularis, well worth seeking out, because the mauvey blue flower colour is exceptional and the plant itself is robust and adaptable.