Spring Anemones

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Wed, 08 Apr 2009 08:55:06 PDT
Jim Waddick’s enthusiastic and well-deserved praise of some of the small
anemones prompts me to add a cautionary note for gardeners on the coastal
plain and piedmont of eastern North America. 


Anemone blanda is one of those plants which at first seems to do well in our
gardens. The plants persist for a few years and even seed around
unobtrusively. However, they are best not regarded as permanent residents:
they eventually disappear.


Years ago, at a time when I had a bit of extra money available for a bulb
binge, I ordered the blue-flowered forms of Anemone blanda by the thousand
for my garden. I had a long established relationship with the supplier, and
I was surprised at his candor. He told me that they would not last under my
conditions. Since I had been growing this species for years, and had known
them to self sow, I was very surprised to hear this. 


I naively put my own experience above the advice of my supplier. The
following spring there were joyous bands of blue anemones in the borders.
The year after that, the bands were a bit tattered. By the third year the
once lavish display was reduced to a few dozen blooms scattered here and
there. Now, years later, there is not a single plant of Anemone blanda in
the garden. 


A group of Anemone blanda ‘White Splendor’ grew for years in a neighbor’s
garden. Each year, forgetting what it was, as I approached it for the first
time I thought they were bloodroot. This is a very beautiful plant, and one
well worth having. But it too will not persist indefinitely under our
conditions. My neighbor’s clump is gone now, too. 


I have a hunch that the answer to keeping these plants from year to year is
the usual one in our climate: a bit of lime and a dry summer. The local
soils do not provide the former and our climate does not provide the latter,
so these inexpensive and otherwise easily grown plants probably need the
timely intervention of the gardener to become permanent garden residents. 


Jim Waddick also mentioned Anemone coronaria. This too is one of those
plants which does not like our winters and does not like our summers. Newly
planted corms survive the first winter, typically after losing all the
foliage produced in the fall and early winter. Such plants produce a bloom
or two and then, in my experience, are not likely to be seen again. A cold
frame will preserve the foliage through the winter and encourage slightly
earlier bloom; and protected plants do bloom freely and gorgeously for
several weeks.  


Years ago a strain of Anemone fulgens was marketed as St. Bravo strain.
These had wonderful, intense colors. The flowers were smaller than the
garden forms of A. coronaria, and the foliage made it easy to distinguish
them: that of A. coronaria was like that of curly parsley, that of A.
fulgens was like that of flat-leaf parsely. You can see this difference even
in the depictions of these plants in the old sixteenth-century herbals. The
anemones of the St. Bravo strain seemed to be a bit hardier than the A.
coronaria types I have grown. 


Recently, on another forum, an Israeli commentator mentioned high altitude
forms of A. coronaria (or was it A. fulgens?) which grow on Mt. Hermon and
do not begin to bloom until well into the new year. These sound like they
might be a better choice for us should they ever prove to be available. 


These little anemones are so beautiful – it’s too bad our summers and
winters are so hard on them.  


Jim McKenney


Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

My Virtual Maryland Garden http://www.jimmckenney.com/

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