August is the month of China Asters [Callistephus Chinensis]. I find many people are shy of these capital plants, perhaps because the mixtures, such as are commonly grown, contain rather harsh and discordant colours; also perhaps because a good many of the kinds, having been purposely dwarfed in order to fit them for pot-culture and bedding, are too stiff to look pretty in general gardening. Such kinds will always have their uses, but what is wanted now in the best gardening is more freedom of habit. I have a little space that I give entirely to China Asters. I have often had the pleasure of showing it to some person who professed a dislike to them, and with great satisfaction have heard them say, with true admiration: "Oh! but I had no idea that China Asters could be so beautiful."
It is only a question of selection, for the kinds are now so many and the colourings so various that there are China Asters to suit all tastes and uses. My own liking is for those of the pure violet-purple and lavender colours, with whites; and to plants with these clear, clean tints my Aster garden is restricted. In other places I grow some of the tenderer pinks, a good blood-red and a clear pale yellow; but these are kept quite away from the purples. The kinds chosen are within the Giant Comet, Ostrich Plume and Victoria classesï¿½ all plants with long-stalked bloom and a rather free habit of growth. For some years I was much hindered from getting the colours I wanted from the inaccurate way in which they are described in seed-lists. Finally I paid a visit to the trial-grounds of one of our premier seed-houses, and saw all the kinds and the colourings and made my own notes. I cannot but think that a correct description of the colours, instead of a fanciful one, would help both customer and seed-merchant. As it is, the customer, in order to get the desired flowers, has to learn a code. I have often observed, in comparing French and English seed-lists, that the French do their best to describe colours accurately, but that the English use some wording which does not describe the colour, but appears to be intended as a complimentary euphemism. Thus, if I want a Giant Comet of that beautiful pale silvery lavender, perhaps the loveliest colour oi which a China Aster is capable, I have to ask for "azure blue." If I want a full lilac, I must order "blue"; if a full purple, it is "dark blue." If I want a strong, rich violet-purple, I must beware of asking for purple, for I shall get a terrible magenta such as one year spoilt the whole colour scheme of my Aster garden. It is not as if the right colour-words were wanting, for the language is rich in themï¿½violet, lavender, lilac, mauve, purple: these, with slight additions, will serve to describe the whole of the colourings falsely called blue. The word blue should not be used at all in connection with these flowers. There are no blue China Asters.
The diagram shows a simple arrangement for a little garden of China Asters of the purple and white colourings. The seed-list names are used in order to identify the sorts recommended. A Lavender hedge surrounds the whole; the paths are edged with Stachys lanata. Taking Messrs. Sutton's list and translating into colour-words as usually understood, the tints are:
Seed list nameActual colour
Azure-blueTender pale lavender-lilac.
Dark blueRich dark purple.
I had hoped that Messrs. Sutton had in contemplation a revision of some of these puzzling colour-names, but have not, as yet, seen any such desirable alteration.