A neat green mound of Aster ‘Johan’ foliage has served as a full stop on the corner of a flower border here all summer long. However, since last month, it has become the garden’s focal point together with its planting partners: Rubus thibetanus ‘Silver Fern’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’
Aster ‘Johan’ is semi-double flowering, reaching no more than 80 cm. tall. It is vigorous, but not aggressively so; however, I probably need to reduce the size of the clump it has formed after four years. This cultivar was a chance seedling found in the Netherlands and may not yet be as widely available as it deserves to be. A compact habit with fine neat foliage that does not flop open and that is resistant to mildew infection are some of its benefits in addition to the strong clear flower colour.
The bramble, Rubus thibetanus ‘Silver Fern’ lives up to its name with delicate textured foliage. In winter its bare, prickly stems are especially effective as they retain their metallic silver sheen. Every spring I cut this vigorous shrub right back to near the ground which encourages it to throw up long arching stems that are just the right length to rise out and above neighbouring asters and earlier flowering heleniums, veronicas and geraniums. It can spread quickly by underground runners, but in the heavy clay soil of my own garden this has hardly ever happened.
Asters are a key theme plant in my autumn garden. They make excellent planting partners together and especially so with late-flowering, warm season grasses such as the Miscanthus sinensis as seen here. With a dramatic background of Eutrochium purpureum, Silphium, Vernonia and Veronicastrum they can create a colour spectacle at what is traditionally seen as the end of the gardening season. It is not, of course, as all of these plants form distinctive seed heads to carry forward into winter.