Thursday 23 November 2017

Japanese anemone ticks all the right boxes

THE Japanese anemone is a superlative plant -- perfect flowers, wind-proof stems, neat foliage, no pests or diseases, shade-tolerant and long-lived. The mark of a robustly reliable plant is that it can carry on for years, even in neglected gardens, and this one does.

The flowers are carried about waist-high on slender wiry stalks. The flower buds are rounded, held on little nodding stalks and arranged in a loose spray at the top. They open in sequence over many weeks in late summer and into early autumn.

The flowers are relatively large, pale pink, raspberry pink or white, and as much as 10 centimetres across. When the cupped flower petals fall, the seed heads are also of rounded shape, so the whole structure never loses its remarkable grace.

The foliage is broad, divided and somewhat rough in appearance but it is tidy, below knee-height, and not really on view. It is more or less evergreen which means that it is weed-resistant all year round.

The ordinary pink form, Anemone x hybrida, is the most widely grown, a hybrid of a Chinese species and a Japanese species. It is easily grown from divisions or even bits of the roots. Named selections have been bred over the years.

'September Charm' has lovely pale pink flowers with a touch of cream, larger than the common form and with slightly more cupped petals. A bit darker is 'Konigin Charlotte' with a shading of purple-pink. It has more petals also, giving it a fuller look.

'Hadspen Abundance' has deep raspberry-red colour with petals edged in pinkish-white. A similarly rich smoky pink colour is carried by 'Prinz Heinrich', a lovely variety with fluttery semi-double flowers.

The white form of this flower is truly beautiful -- the clear white flowers held against silvery buds, over dark-green foliage, and with a golden eye at the centre of the flower. The most common white variety is 'Honorine Jobert', an old French variety.

Very similar with larger flowers is 'Luise Uhink', although the petals hang back off the flower somewhat and are not as attractive as the more cupped shape of 'Honorine Jobert'. 'Whirlwind' and 'Geant des Blanches' are both large-flowered, semi-double forms.

Any of these could be planted in a border with other perennials and shrubs as the Japanese anemones are vigorous and tolerate light shading. Set the plants back a little from the front as the foliage is not great when there are no flowers. It is a vigorous plant and tends to spread, so it is perfect for filling an awkward spot, and at this time of year, it really lights up the garden.

It has to be said that this plant is a spreader, but if it is planted with shrubs around, or equally robust perennials, it will not be a problem. In fact, it is hard to imagine how such a beautiful flower could possibly be a nuisance.

Sunday Independent

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