Symphytotrichum ‘Little Carlow’

It’s been mild here again this month. Over the years I’ve got used to first frosts beginning during the first week of October. Temperatures have cooled a little it’s true but for some reason the cold snap hasn’t arrived. Indoors I’ve changed our lightweight summer bedding for toasty winter quilts but outdoors I’ve left my collection of tender scented geraniums on the deck where they are thriving. I will move them into the greenhouse at the first sign of frost but there’s no sign of it so far.

For the past few years October has been warmer and sunnier than I can remember. It’s not just our  experience here in Lancashire. There are official records showing that our UK climate is gradually changing. I’ve just been reading some stats that show it’s not just this year that the frost is late. In fact it looks like the growing season has been extended by about 30 days in the UK. It’s warming up earlier in spring and cooling down later in autumn.

Whenever I read new scientific information like this there are always two ways to go. I could worry about it and wonder what the implications are or I could just choose to accept the facts and make the most of it. Positive and optimistic by nature I usually choose to make the most of it. In this case I’m choosing to enjoy the extra month in the garden. We’ve been introducing plants to extend the flowering season for a few years now.

There are lots of lovely plants that will go on and on flowering in autumn. Half Hardy Annuals such as Cosmos and Rudbeckia are brilliant for extending the season. They are perennials in their native countries. Rudbeckia is from North America. Cosmos is from Mexico where the warm year round climate doesn’t curtail their growth. Here as soon as the first frosts hit… that’s it, their season is over. Late summer and autumn flowering perennials are useful in the garden too. There many to choose from and some of the best are Asters. You may know them as New England and New York Asters. A recent name change has occurred when plant scientists discovered more about these plants and re-classified them. They are now known as Symphytotrichum. I have a feeling that most gardeners will continue to call these plants Asters and so will I for now.

Asters are brilliant for autumn flowers.

Some are better than others of course. There are lots of really lovely plants to choose from but one of my favourites is Symphytotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ previously known as Aster cordifolius ‘Little Carlow’. I love a good daisy and this plant has daisy-like blooms in profusion from late August to October. Petals are violet-blue to mauve with pale yellow centres which change to pink as the flowers age. It’s not just me that likes this plant… most good nurseries and garden stock it because it’s a good performer and trouble free. Little Carlow has the RHS Award of Garden Merit too which is a stamp of reliability.



Visit any garden open to the public in October and it’s likely you’ll see plenty of Asters. Often they are grown in generous clumps to provide sumptuous colour in mixed borders. Autumn flowering Asters tend to be tall, bushy plants so they add substance to planting schemes. They provide a welcome contrast to whispy plants and bleached autumn grasses. They also provide a welcome source of late food for bees and butterflies. What’s more they make lovely cut flowers.



Symphytotrichum ‘Little Carlow’

  • Healthy vigorous hardy perennial growing up to 1 metre tall x 60cm wide in 2 – 5 years.
  • Like most tall perennials ‘Little Carlow’ will need staking, probably from year 2 onwards.
  • Will grow in most situations as long as these is part sun and part shade.
  • Prefers that magic ingredient moist but well drained soil.
  • After flowering cut stems to the ground and add a generous mulch (10cm/4 inches)of organic matter such as garden compost
  • To maintain vigour divide clumps every three years or so retaining and replanting the fresh young growth. (Late flowering plants like this can be divided in Spring to prevent winter losses.)

As usual at this time of year I find myself wishing that I’d grown more of these gorgeous plants! If you are kicking yourself too – don’t worry, Asters are usually available for sale from all good nurseries and garden centres in 2L or 5L pots throughout the year. I like buying plants in flower then I can see exactly what I’m getting. Often open gardens have the same plants in their shop as they have on display in their borders. It’s easy to spot a plant you love then buy it on the way out. Bare root plants are also available from specialist nurseries in autumn and winter.

Love GillianAre you growing Asters in your garden this year or next year perhaps?

Thanks for visiting and for reading, liking and sharing. Your comments are most welcome.
Have a lovely day. Gillian  🙂

26 thoughts on “Symphytotrichum ‘Little Carlow’

  1. Thank you Gillian for this interesting run-down of ‘Little Carlow’. I’ve just bought a (tiny) one for my border after reading several bloggers raving about it… just have to decide which spot is the best place for it, and am glad to hear I will be able to divide it and spread it around. Am wondering, does it self seed? Would you add it to the front, middle or back of a border?

    1. It’s a tall plant Joanna, so I’d say middle to back of the border as long as it’s in sun for a good part of the day. Asters do self seed and you can collect the seeds too. It’s easy to grow lots more plants however seedlings will probably not be identical to the parent plant. If you want identical plants then division is the best way.

  2. Hi Gillian,
    Yes I don’t think I will be able to remember that new name. Asters it will be. I only have one variety. ‘Jenny’. I bought two plants a few years ago and one has grown much bigger (wider) than the other, just because of position and closeness to other plants. They are both gorgeous though and as they are small and compact they don’t need staking. They have a real profusion of flowers and really brighten up the Autumn border.

    1. That’s a bright pink Aster isn’t it? There’s a lot to be said for plants that don’t need staking Annette. Asters can be grown in big pots too and just plunged into the border for instant colour exactly where you need it.

      1. Hmm -I just had to go and have a look. It was brighter than I remembered it but not sure I would call it pink. It is looking a bit bedraggled at the moment after heavy rain the other day, but it isn’t far off the colour of Erysimum ‘Bowle’s Mauve’. Growing asters in pots is a good idea so they don’t take up permanent space as they only flower so late.

  3. Loved this post full of your sunny pictures Gillian! I have decided I need more asters, but I could not find a single one in our local nurseries the other day… they will have to be ordered online I suppose!

    1. Thanks very much Cathy. At least you’ll be able to buy bare root plants now and they are much more inexpensive than pot grown plants.

  4. Wonderful pictures Gillian – and your insects are a real joy to see. I’ve been really besotted with all the insects that have visited my asters this year. Ours are now nearly history, so nice to enjoy yours. I don’t think I have ‘Little Carlow’. Bought a collection from Hayloft in 2014 and this year they’ve fabulously.

    1. Thanks very much Cathy. The insects are amazing… I confess that I can’t identify one type of bee from another no matter how I try.

    1. I think I have a particular soft spot for daisy-like flowers and I love all the Asters/Symphytotrichum. If they are healthy and vigorous then that’s even better! Thanks very much for your kind comment Kate.

  5. Gillian los Aster, perdón, los Symphytotrichim (“qué nombre más fácil”) son preciosos. La variedad “Little Carlow” la he cultivado durante varios años y es maravillosa. Tiene una gran floración hasta las primeras heladas. Son unas margaritas azul violeta preciosas. Sus fotos de los Aster son maravillosas. El año que viene volveré a plantar esta bella flor. Muchas gracias por toda la información sobre el Aster (voy a seguir llamándole así). Es un blog magnífico. Saludos de Margarita.

  6. Such lovely photos Gillian of an equally lovely flower. Wish we could grow them here as they are so lovely in the autumn. Found your comments on the warmer springs and autumn very interesting too. I left England 25 years ago (can’t believe that!) but I really notice how much the climate has changed over there – it is dramatically different I think!

    1. Thanks Kate.Time flies doesn’t it? We’ve been warned about global warming for so many years it’s easy to become relaxed about it. I don’t think anyone knows if these changes are natural or man made but either way they sure are happening!

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