Michaelmas daisies bring a fresh, bold splash of colour to the garden at a time when so much else is dull and faded. Take one of my favourites, Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’, with its striking lavender blue flowers shining brightly in the autumn sun.

It ticks so many boxes: it just keeps flowering for weeks. And, though over a century old, it’s like so many of our modern cultivars as its low-growing habit lets it fit snugly in a border or pot.

‘Frikartii’ was produced by Swiss breeder, Karl Ludwig Frikart, who named many of his cultivars after Swiss mountains. This one, a cross between Aster amellus and A. thomsonii, had a mountainous origin so hates wet but copes well with prolonged dry spells in summer or autumn, unlike many other plants.

Though many of our Michaelmas daisies are low-growing, the taller ones are derived from the large American species. These used to be part of the Aster genus but since their plants have little in common genetically with Asters they’re now renamed ‘Symphyotrichum’. Symphyotrichums need rich, fertile soil that doesn’t dry out. As a rule, they’re tall, growing to around 1.5m and produce multiple heads of daisy-like flowers in shades of pink, purple and white.

And here I must come clean with my dislike of pinks and whites at this time of year. Frankly they don’t work for me in autumn. They don’t make the bold statement of hot, fiery reds purples and blues as they stand defiantly against a dull grey, leaden sky.

Many American Michaelmas daisies were also reputedly prone to mildew and didn’t flower early enough for a Scottish garden. But I must be fair: big clumps can be designed well into ‘prairie-style’ borders.

But once again, plant breeders have come to the rescue for those who don’t have large enough beds for ‘prairie-style’ planting. Shorter, more drought-tolerant, mildew-resistant cultivars, like Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ are available. This one has small lilac-blue flowers with a yellow centre, and grows in dense clumps to around 60cm.

So how did these cheery autumn flowers get their name? The peak flowering time for Michaelmas daisies falls at the feast of the Christian archangel Michael: 29th September in Roman Catholic Europe. Interestingly, the Orthodox feast is the 8th of November so who knows, Climate Change might extend their flowering season even to this date.

The Herald: ViburnumViburnum (Image: free)

Plant of the week

Viburnum opulus has bright glossy red berries that look translucent when backlit by the autumn sun. ‘Compactum’ is evergreen and requires minimal pruning as it only grows to about 1.5 to 2m and has a neat and compact habit.

In spring it has white, lace cap flowers but its real glory is the berries which can be popular with the birds, so enjoy the display while it lasts.