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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’: New bushy aromatic autumn aster

Posted by Graham Rice on 14 Aug 2012 at 06:57 PM

Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’: New bushy aromatic autumn aster. Image ©Charles OliverCharles Oliver is the pioneer of creating new heucheras, it was his initial work hybridising wild selections which led to the dramatic developments of recent years.

He also has an interest in other North American plants including Phlox, Tiarella, Arisaema and Aster but it has taken nearly fifteen years for his form of a widespread American Aster species to make it across the Atlantic to Britain.

‘October Skies’ is his selection of Aster oblongifolius, a species not often seen in British gardens. The wild species is a little like A. novae-angliae in general appearance, though with more petals – up to thirty five - around each flower giving a more solid look, but tends to be woody at the base, rather weak in growth and floppy.

‘October Skies’ is much more compact, reaching about 18in/45cm, and branches well to create an attractively bushy, self-supporting plant, much better in its habit of growth than the other variety sometimes seen, ‘Fanny’s’, which is taller and floppier. Its foliage, like that of the wild type, is strongly aromatic with a balsam-like scent then the purple-blue flowers, just over 1in/2.5cm across, open from late September and continue through October to the first heavy frost.

Best in full sun and in well-drained soil, ‘October Skies’ will tolerate dry conditions once established. It was selected by Charles Oliver in 1999 from a wild population growing on his land in south west Pennsylvania.

You can order Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ from these RHS Plantfinder nurseries.

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