Anemones are among the world’s most treasured Spring flowers. These are close relatives of the Buttercup and the lovely garden Ranunculus. The most famous, Anemone coronaria
, the Poppy Anemone, are raised by the millions annually.
As cut-flowers for the florist trade. Millions more are planted in massed beds, borders, cottage gardens, rockeries and a variety of containers in gardens throughout the temperate world.
The word coronaria means ‘crown’ as it was once associated with ancient royalty and its velvet Tulip Poppy shaped blooms do indeed come in a vivid range of royal blue, iridescent regal red and pristine white shades as well as beautiful pastels and remarkable fluffy doubles. These graceful cut-flowers dance on 20-60cm/8-24inch stems. A wild field of these is unforgettable.
This love affair with the Anemone goes back to our primeval origins when humankind first set foot in the meadows and fields of the Middle East and Europe.
Early each Spring the land was awakened from Winter slumber by a blush of bright wildflowers fluttering and sparkling in the wind. A celebration of rich colours splashed amongst the predominantly satin red blooms created a sparkling crimson sea of flowers that rolled over the land in a floral tide. These hardy little wildflowers danced so proudly against relentless seasonal winds that early Greeks endeared them with their name for the wind, “anemos”, and called them the “Wind Poppy”
or Anemone, which means, “Daughter of the Wind”.
At the same time cooler climates of the Mediterranean, Europe and Asia were adorned with the subtle cooler pastels of Carpet Anemones
. The damp meadows, forest verges and especially deciduous woodlands were carpeted in the soothing pastel shades of Anemone blanda
, the Grecian Windflower
, Anemone nemorosa
, European Wood Anemone, and Anemone obtusiloba
, Blue Himalayan Anemone. There are at least 150 other species and a vast variety of hybrid cultivars found in temperate latitudes around the world.
Because the ferny or feather foliage and flower buds pop up from barren Winter ground they became a natural symbol for the “renewal of life” and “hope from Mother Earth”. This association is exemplified in the ancient Greek legend of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty, and handsome lover Adonis.
Ancient legend records that when Adonis was killed in a hunting accident Aphrodite was so grief stricken that the gods of the world of the dead allowed him to come up from the Earth to be with her for part of each year. From Adonis blood sprang the scarlet red wind flower, Anemone coronaria
and paler Anemone blanda
. So early each Spring with the first warming rays of sunshine these adored flowers reach up from the barren cold Earth to caress her with their delicately handsome beauty just for a short time.
The dwarf Anemone Blanda
and related Carpet Anemone mat-forming species are still planted as a symbol of remembrance for the dearly beloved. In the language of flowers they represent ‘unfading love’ and ‘strength in the face of abandonment’. The larger flowering Anemone coronaria
became an important part of spring festivals, weddings and religious events especially as additional rich shades and pastel colours were discovered.
They were used in garlands, head-dresses, floral tributes and bouquets. Eventually their natural beauty and simplicity of design was immortalised. Especially in the Middle East and warmer Mediterranean, these legendary flowers became proverbially known as one of the Biblical ‘Lilies of the Field’.
Most all of these Anemone species spring forth from a most unlikely dirt-brown hard, woody rhizomous tuber that while dormant resembles a small, pointed or rounded stone. This clever adaptation to their often semi-arid natural environment provides an effective natural defence and disguise in the wild against hungry predators.
While the Rhizomous tubers are dormant and vulnerable to predation, they literally disappear into the gravelly land like so many dry stones. If scratched up or dislodged by wind or upheaval, they simply roll on until they can find a suitable lodging. And there they rest undisturbed until the first rains of Autumn and Winter bring them back to life.
Shortly after the first substantial watering, the tiny hard tubers swell into larger pea-sized Potatoes. Wiry roots quickly spring forth from the sides of the tuber that rapidly penetrate the gravelly ground. Soon a tiny crown of feather leaves emerge like miniature fern fiddleheads. These soon unfurl into lovely feathery or multi-segmented foliage. The delicate buds and blooms soon follow in a few more weeks or months dependent on variety and climatic conditions.
Thus when planting Anemone tubers, if the sowings are staggered every few weeks from Late Summer onward through Mid Winter, the tubers will continue to sprout one after another. This will provide a continuous supply of flowers from Late Autumn to nearly Summer.
Place the pointed end down with the flat and/or fuzzy side facing upwards. If in doubt just soak the dry tubers and barely cover them with a little course gravel, pumice or sharp sand. Once the roots and tiny crowns begin to emerge, then carefully lift them out of the gravel and sand. Replant immediate with the roots facing down into the soil.
Plant Anemone coronaria
tubers 5cm/2inches deep and 15-30cm/6-12inches apart for largest plants and exhibition blooms. Carpet Anemones can be planted much closer together for a mass effect or intense splash of colour.
Choose an open, sunny site with good air circulation for A. Coronaria
. As their name suggests they are fine in windy sites or near the coast. They thrive in a variety of more sheltered locations and are a favourite Winter/Spring cut flower for mild climates and the well-ventilated glasshouse. Avoid close, humid, damp locations and slashing winter rain and hail.
Anemones thrive best in light, free-draining soils. All Anemones prefer rather neutral soil pH from 5.6-7.8. Where garden soil is heavy and wet grow them in containers or seedling boxes which can be partially submerged in the garden bed to provide necessary drainage while allowing roots to penetrate the soil.
Enrich with aged manure, blood and bone, and/or compost which is best when dug-in underneath their roots, which can be surprisingly extensive.
All the smaller Carpet Anemones prefer soils enriched with leaf mould. These are easily naturalised underneath deciduous shrubbery, dappled or high, light shade, in woodland settings and along pathways or raised garden beds near the edges where they can be enjoyed and not lost within the surrounding foliage.
They also work well in hardy annual and perennial borders as these low, mat-forming Carpet Anemones flower rather early, and then die away completely in Summer. But they do their very best when kept rather dry during their Summer dormancy period. So choose a situation which will not remain excessive moist or wet all Summer.
For better blooms, especially with the larger Anemone coronaria species also mix into the soil a dusting of superphosphate, dolomite and/or slow release fertiliser. The best exhibition blooms often come with additional liquid feeding as buds emerge and develop. Remove faded blooms to encourage continual flowering.
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