Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden

Aster amellus

 

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Aster amellus (Italian Starwort)

 

There are records of this species in cultivation in the UK as far back as 1596 when John Gerard was growing it in his Holborn Physic Garden. It was even mentioned in Vergil’s Georgics more than 2000 years ago. Native to North Central France and Lithuania, southwards to North Italy, South East Europe, Siberia, Caucasus, Armenia and Anatolia it is found in free-draining limestone soils on the sunny edges of woods and in open brush. Its natural habitat gives us a good clue as to the preferred growing conditions of A. amellus cultivars, with free-drainage being one of the most important points in our damp climate.

 

The starry flowerheads are produced from the end of August to mid-autumn and are usually violet-blue although some cultivars are pale pink to deep purple-pink. The flowering sprays are upright with woody stems. The leaves are lanceolate to obovate and hairy. The heights range from 30 – 70 cm. So long as their basic requirements are met A. amellus will have a long flowering period and be long lived in your garden. They are not very happy in containers and are best avoided for that purpose.

 

Cultivation and Division


Spring planting is vital for these plants no matter what size. This is the only way to ensure that the roots have become fully established before the winter dormancy period. Divide clumps every three or four years in March or April. Having lifted the clump work from underneath pulling the clump apart into sections with three or four flowering stem bases, as many new shoots as possible, and plenty of roots. Old woody bits of root and stems without any new shoots should be removed. The divisions of compact cultivars and be planted about 30 cm apart, while more vigorous cultivars can be spaced about 45 cm apart, while the really strong cultivars such as ‘Grunder’ can be as wide apart as 60 cm. They are best in a fresh area of soil which has been lightened if necessary. If this is not possible replace the soil to a depth of 30 cm with a loam based compost. Break the soil below this and even add some sharp grit to improve winter drainage if your garden is not naturally gritty. The addition of limestone grit to the replacement soil is also advisable if your soil is not naturally alkaline.


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