Wednesday 13 December 2017

The florist's anemone, a thing of awesome beauty

There are lots of kinds of anemones, large- and small-flowered, but the 'florist's anemone' has a special place. It is known as the florist's anemone because it has been used as a cut flower for centuries. It is quite familiar from paintings and illustrations as its intensely coloured flowers have provided inspiration to artists.

Another reason for its popularity is its knack of flowering almost year round, helped in the duller colder months by the extra warmth of a greenhouse or glass cloches.

It will flower a few months after planting, no matter when it is planted. So if planted in autumn, it flowers in late spring. Spring planting will flower in summer; summer planting in autumn and autumn planting in winter, under cover or early spring.

The plant is low-growing, producing a rather ungainly clump of heavily divided, seaweed-like leaves. But from this unpromising start, the flower buds appear on elegant stems about 30cm tall.

One flower is carried on each stem. The leaves and flower stems arise from knobbly, black tubers.

The tubers are planted and soon start into growth, more quickly in warm weather, when they appear in a couple of weeks, the stems arching out of the ground. They are good for children to try as they are quick, reliable and very beautiful.

The flowers are relatively large, up to eight centimetres across, for such a small plant. The colours are mostly red or blue, bright intense red and dark smoky blue. The smoky look is enhanced by the dark blue-black boss of stamens at the centre of the flower.

Other shades are available: dark and light pink, light blue, rich purple and white. Even the paler shades of colour are tremendously rich and very eye-catching, either in the garden or as cut-flowers, standing in water very well for more than a week.

The florist's anemone is also known as the crown anemone because of the crown of flower petals, some kinds showing a white banding as the centre of the flower. There are two main groups grown: the single-flowered De Caen anemones and double-flowered St. Brigid group. These have been derived by selection and cross-breeding and are generally sold as mixed colours, although named kinds exist, such as dark-blue 'Lord Lieutenant'.

Very easy plant to grow, the knobbly anemone tubers are sold in packets of mixed colour in garden centres in autumn and spring.

These are planted in good soil, very well drained and light and sandy if possible, with a good amount of humus added in the form of garden compost or similar. Good drainage and full open sunlight is needed as the tubers tend to rot in wet soil, and dampness leaves them prone to hard frost.

It is a Mediterranean native and it is hardy in light soil. It grows very well in pots or window-boxes, the plants moved to the garden after flowering. Left in the ground, they will flower in April each year.

Reader query

I received a gift of a rose bush but I am not sure how to plant it at this time of the year. Any tips or things I should avoid?

P. Carroll, Dublin

G.D Choose a sunny spot in well-drained fertile soil. Allow a metre or so of space for it to grow. You can plant any time but best not when the soil is very wet and sticky.

Sunday Independent

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