Meteorological autumn starts at the beginning of September, and then astronomical autumn starts at the autumnal equinox two-thirds of the way through the month.
To reflect this, the Equinox Borders on Seven Acres are designed to peak in their display around this time of year. And what a colourful sight!
In almost every conceivable tone of pink, purple, lavender and mauve, for the most part, the stars (quite literally) of this area are the asters, or Michaelmas daisies. To be botanically accurate, some of them are officially classified in the genus Symphyotrichum these days – such as the New England asters – Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (you can see where the New England name comes from). These are joined by S. novi-belgii, but others remain in the genus Aster, such as Aster ‘Cotswold Gem’ and Aster x frikartii ‘Jungfrau’ and Aster amellus ‘Forncett Flourish’.
Asters are easy to grow, like an open sunny site in well drained, humus-rich soil with a little shelter from strong winds.
Taller ones might benefit from staking, and they’ll definitely do better if they are divided every four or five years.
As they’re herbaceous the stems need to be cut back to the base. This can be done in the autumn, but if left until spring, you get the bonus of frosted stems with sparkling spider webs in winter and the knowledge that you’re helping to provide for wildlife.
Accompanied by Hesperantha coccinea (crimson flag lily), fuchsias and kniphofias (red hot poker) and backed by the seasonal foliage of shrubs and trees such as Euonymus europaeus (spindle tree) this autumnal show is spectacular. These generous flowers are a must see at this time of year.