The recipe for a classic seaside garden is as tried and tested as that for the most British of cakes, a Victoria Sandwich. Take a sheet of tightly mown lawn, add a fringe of hydrangeas (preferably blue) and spike with a handful of cordylines (Cordyline australis). Add phormiums (a modern twist) or agapanthus to taste and then scatter with osteospermums and beach asters (Erigeron glaucus). For that finishing touch, season with a handfuls of crocosmia (not the invasive kind), Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus and Kaffir lilies (Schizostylis coccinea). These will give you colour in summer and autumn. A dash of daffodils will mean spring is covered and a well chosen camellia will give you flowers over winter too. Wrap the whole thing with an evergreen band of Griselinia littoralis or Escallonia rubra and, ‘Tah Dah!, the job is done.
This timeless concoction won’t scare the horses on the parades and drives of the South West, but the ingredients within it are worth knowing about if you’re trying to make a garden in an exposed spot.
When we were down in North Devon this weekend I was reminded of what a wonderful plant the beach aster, Erigeron glaucus, is. It’s tough, floriferous and will grow just about anywhere, especially if it’s vertical. It was greening walls long before Patrick Blanc came along and started glueing ferns and bromeliads to the exteriors of posh hotels and will be around for a long time after. The fuzzy-edged daisies are happiness in flower form, turning their faces upwards towards the skies whether they be grey or blue. The soft pink colour contrasts nicely with the slate greys and cool granites of the West Country, the old-gold centres even picking up the orange tones of encrusting lichen. Blooms will keep appearing for months. Interspersed with close relative Erigeron karvinskianus and red valerian (Centranthus ruber), you have a classic planting combination for a garden wall. The icing, if you like, on the cake.
Once you have it, Erigeron glaucus will seed itself into nooks and crannies without making a nuisance of itself. All the plant demands is a neutral, sandy or free-draining soil and lots and lots of sunshine, which by-and-large it gets down south. Erigeron glaucus is hardy to about -15 centigrade, but if damaged by frost will regrow from the roots. Named varieties include E. ‘Seabreeze’, E. ‘Roseus’ or E. ‘Elstead Pink’. All are pink, so if you live by the seaside it’s probably easier to ask your neighbour for a small plant or basal cutting and save your pennies for something fancier.
Seed is available from Chilterns Seeds.
Categories: alpines, Cornwall, Daily Flower Candy, Flowers, Perennials, Plants
3 comments On "Daily Flower Candy: Erigeron glaucus (beach aster)"
Nice plant. I’m glad you feature the ordinary and common once in a while. It is good to take notice of and appreciate those plants that will show up no matter what. We have several erigeron species here where I live. And they look so similar to each other, I’m not usually sure who is who. But they are considered weeds and have the common name “Flea Bane”, although I don’t think most people even know that name as it sounds like it came from long ago. I love them for their spring color and resilience. But they can be a nuisance if allowed to go to seed. Very prolific.
There’s a bluish form widely grown here in Calif., discovered by a San Francisco plantsman, named in his honor ‘Wayne Roderick.’ A couple years ago I decided to stop messing around with difficult stuff and grow something cheerful and easy, so chose this erigeron. I never could figure out what it liked. It wilted in full sun here in Los Angeles, a mile from the beach, in clayey soil. Your photos depict exactly the effect I was after, but ultimately they were pulled out. (more info: http://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?plant_id=568)
That’s a pretty one Denise, although if I am honest all the named varieties look much of a muchness to me. I am sorry this erigeron didn’t work out for you. Perhaps it needs the constant moisture flowing through the wall that it gets here, as well as a good baking. I am sure lots of other things do brilliantly in LA though 🙂