Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, February 2016
   Aster alpinus  - by Harold McBride

The Aster genus with over 250 species provides us with many plants suitable for the rock garden. Without doubt the most widely grown is the ubiquitous alpine Aster Alpinus from the European Alps, which is easy to cater for in the garden and is of course a very attractive plant. 

Flowering in June when most spring Alpines are on the wane, it nevertheless seems to have lost some of its popularity amongst present day gardeners. Forms of A. alpinus may vary in height, size or colour of flower. The 2014 seed exchanges listed ten different colours or cultivars including albus, ‘Blue’, roseus and others.

The most desirable forms are compact and low-growing with solid flowers of bright purple on 12 to 15 cm stems surrounding a golden disc. Any well-drained soil, ideally neutral to alkaline, will yield results and I find it enjoys a sunny aspect in a raised bed or large trough. Easily propagated from seed or divisions in spring, seedlings develop quickly, reaching flowering size in one year.

The plant shown on the right was grown from SRGC seed under the name of Aster alpinus var. dolomiticus and seems similar to the plants I observed growing on rocky slopes in the Dolomites. 

The top picture is from the Tien Shan in central Asia.

 Aster Alpinus is a very desirable and dependable addition to the rock garden which I feel deserves much greater popularity among gardeners, and indeed among those alpine nurseries who often omit this plant from their lists.
 This article can be read in the current issue of the SRGC "Rock Garden", for which it was originally composed.