Asters.—This splendid class of half-hardy annuals has been vastly improved by both French and German cultivators. Speaking generally, the flowers of the French section resemble the chrysanthemum, and those of the German the paeony. They all delight in a very rich, light soil, and need plenty of room from the commencement of their growth. The first sowing may be made in February or March, on a gentle hotbed, followed by others at about fourteen days’ interval. The seeds are best sown in shallow drills and lightly covered with soil, then pressed down by a board. Prick out the seedlings 2 in. apart, and plant them out about the middle of May in a deeply-manured bed. If plant food be given it must be forked in lightly, as the Aster is very shallow-rooting, and it should be discontinued when the buds appear. For exhibition purposes remove the middle bud, mulch the ground with some good rotten soil from an old turf heap, and occasionally give a little manure water.
Astilbe.—Ornamental, hardy herbaceous perennials, with large handsome foliage, and dense plumes of flowers, requiring a peaty soil for their successful cultivation. They may be grown from seed sown in July or August, or may be increased by division. They flower at the end of July. The varieties vary in height, some growing as tall as 6 ft.
Astragalus Alpinus.—A hardy perennial bearing bluish-purple flowers. It will grow in any decent soil, and can be propagated from seed sown in spring or autumn, or by division. Height, 6 ft.
Astragalus Hypoglottis.—A hardy deciduous trailing plant, producing purple flowers in July. Sow the seed early in spring on a moderate hotbed, and plant out into any garden soil. Height, 3 in.
Astragalus Lotoides.—This pretty little trailer is of the same height as A. Hypoglottis, and merely requires the same treatment. It flowers in August.
Astrantia.—This herbaceous plant is quite hardy, and will thrive in any good garden soil, producing its flowers in June and July. Seed may be sown either in autumn or spring. Height, 1-1/2 ft. to 2 ft.
Atragene Austriaca.—Handsome, hardy climbers, which may be grown in any garden soil. They flower in August, and are increased by layers or by cuttings under glass. Height, 8 ft.
Atriplex.—Straggling hardy annuals of very little beauty. Will grow in any soil if sown in spring, and only require ordinary attention. Flower in July. Height, 5 ft.
Aubrietia.—An early spring-blooming hardy perennial. Very ornamental either in the garden or on rock-work, the flowers lasting a long time. An open and dry situation suits it best. May be readily raised from seed, and increased by dividing the roots or by cuttings under a glass. Flowers in March and April. Height 6 in.
Aucuba.—Hardy evergreen shrubs, some having blotched leaves. They look well standing alone on grass plots, and are indifferent to soil or position. Cuttings may be struck in any garden soil under a hand-glass in August, or by layers in April or May. When the male and female varieties are planted together, the latter produce an abundance of large red berries, rendering the plant very showy and ornamental. They bloom in June. Height, 6 ft.