- 30 August 2012
Charles Oliver is the pioneer of creating new heucheras, it was his initial work hybridising wild selections which led to the dramatic developments of recent years. He also has an interest in other North American plants including Phlox, Tiarella, Arisaema and Aster but it has taken nearly fifteen years for his form of a widespread American Aster species to make it across the Atlantic to Britain.
‘October Skies’ is his selection of Aster oblongifolius, a species not often seen in British gardens. The wild species is a little like A. novae-angliae in general appearance, though with more petals – up to thirty five - around each flower giving a more solid look, but tends to be woody at the base, rather weak in growth and floppy.
‘October Skies’ is much more compact, reaching about 18in/45cm, and branches well to create an attractively bushy, self-supporting plant, much better in its habit of growth than the other variety sometimes seen, ‘Fanny’s’, which is taller and floppier. Its foliage, like that of the wild type, is strongly aromatic with a balsam-like scent then the purple-blue flowers, just over 1in/2.5cm across, open from late September and continue through October to the first heavy frost.
Best in full sun and in well-drained soil, ‘October Skies’ will tolerate dry conditions once established. It was selected by Charles Oliver in 1999 from a wild population growing on his land in south west Pennsylvania.