Plant of the week- Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’

Of all the Asters or indeed all the forms formally know as Asters, this is my favourite form of this very popular garden plant. With any plant that’s popular, there has to be a reason it’s become so widely grown and to those that have grown this plant in the past will understand why. It’s a tough plant that flowers from mid summer up into the first touches of Jack Frost, dancing into our year.

It has a beautiful past, x frikartii is a cross between a Himalayan form, A. thomsonia, a short but long flowering form that will grow a little in the shade with a much more taller form A. amellus. This was done first by the English clergyman, Rev Charles Woolley-Dod. The seedlings raised were found to be very resistant to the bane of Asters, mildew. Despite showing them in an RHS show in 1882, they were sadly lost. But another nurseryman, the Swiss mons Frikart, made the cross a few years later in 1918 at his nursery in Stafa. He raised 4 forms, 3 of which named after peaks in the Alps range, Elger, Jungfrau, Wunder Von Stafa and of course Monch. There is a few lines of thought, that feel most the plants sold as Monch are indeed Wunder Von Stafa with the main differences being just in their heights, with Monach taller growing up to 100cm while Wunder Von Stafa is a little shorter at 75cm tall. Graham Stuart Thomas (GST)does say in his bible of Perennial Garden Plants  Wunder does need staking and has less than perfect flower and less blue. Indeed, the notes section of The Plant Finder says the true Monach is a truely rare plant. Like all great mysteries, the true maybe lost a little in the depths of time but it would be great to know and understand the correct name for the plant. ((Post writing note)Funny enough, in my pictures for this article, you can see the different shades are both being sold under the same name!)

Whatever the name it is truly one of the great garden plants indeed GST said it was one of his top six plants, an honour indeed! It is happy in most soils although prefers a slightly alkaline soil that’s well drained, just add some sharp sand to heavier soils. It slowly forms clumps that can be divided every 5 years if you so wish. If you want to propagate it in the mean time, softwood cuttings taken in early spring just when they are about 5cm tall is prefect. Otherwise let it form its mass of flowers from July onwards. Doesn’t need any spelt bloom removal and is pretty disease and pest free

It is freely available from most garden centres and can be seen everywhere!

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