Plant of the Month: Aster

The Horticultural Trades Association's 'plant of the month' for September is the aster, and if you've got these colourful blooms in your borders or raised beds, it's easy to see why.

With a selection of colours available to choose from - including blues and purples that contrast perfectly against the vivid oranges of autumn - there's an aster to suit your tastes, whatever you want to do in your garden.

Best of all, these late-summer flowers last right through until the first frosts of winter, meaning in a mild autumn, they'll provide the perfect companion for your outdoor activities until late in the year.

A Star is Born

The name 'aster' is Latin for 'star', and these really are the stars of late-season planting, thanks to their delicate appearance but relative hardiness to the weather conditions.

Several asters are named after different locations around the world - aster bahamas, barbados, tonga, samoa and ibiza - and these range from bright purple to pink, vivid tones that can help to brighten up your garden as the darker nights set in.

The lavender-blue aster x fikartii 'monch' flowers right through from midsummer until late autumn and into the frosty conditions, making it an excellent value-for-money option.

Adding Asters

The Plant of the Month scheme aims to highlight the plants that are at their best in garden centres in any given month, so September is a good time to buy mature asters to plant out directly.

But autumn is also a good time to plant aster bulbs - along with several other types of flower suggested by the HTA recently - ready for them to bloom in late summer 2014.

The HTA says asters are particularly suited to newcomers to gardening, as they are fairly easy to plant and grow, and make good cut flowers - so if the frosts set in early this year, you can still make the most of your flowers by moving them inside in vase displays.

Once again, we would suggest planting your bulbs in raised beds, which should be easier to insulate against the worst of the winter ground frosts, or in pots that can be brought indoors during ice and snow, then placed on your patio in time for the spring.