The feast day of St Michael the Archangel on the 29th September coincides with the peak flowering season of autumn flowering Asters. Which is how they come by their common name, Michaelmas Daisy.
In America they have other common names such as Frost Weed. The first record of autumn asters being cultivated in this country is 1596 in John Gerard’s Holburn Physic Garden. At this time they were called Starworts.
In Worcestershire, close to the beautiful Malvern Hills, is the Picton Garden, a plantsman’s garden that holds the National Plant Collection of more than 400 varieties of Michaelmas Daisies creating a jewel-like tapestry from mid-September.
I went to visit this little gem last week in glorious September sunshine. Let’s have a look around:
Once through the garden entrance a gravel pathway leads through an old Rock Garden, a mixed border and opposite a raised bed of European Aster amellus cultivars. Immediately you are struck by the colours of this garden.
At first you just see the colours, then you notice the differences between the asters – some with yellow stamens, others with reddish ones, and then there are the petals, some narrow and star-like, others multi-layered and frilly. It’s difficult to know what to focus on.
I am immersed in a jewellry box. Filled with glittering ambers, deep red rubies and sapphires and amethysts of all shades and tones. Rudbeckias, Heleniums and Echinacea add height and autumnal tones, even those that have ‘gone over’.
The garden is continually being renewed and replanted beneath a canopy of beautiful species of trees such as Davidia, silver birch, maples, a tulip tree and magnolias. Ferns and bamboos are planted in the woodland glade and autumn-flowering hydrangea, variegated-leaved phlox and a lovely white clematis frame the entrance to the Black and White Garden where you will find the Michaelmas Fairy.
A garden (and nursery) such as this obviously is a smorgasbord for bees and butterflies, wasps and hover flies and other insects.
I will leave you with this image of a visiting wasp to a perfectly colour-matching Helianthus.