Two of the brightest and most colourful spring flowers just happen to be the most inexpensive and easily grown of the spring bulbs: the Ranunculus and Anemone.
These are ancient plants cultivated for many centuries in the Old World. Wild red anemones still carpet fields in Europe and the Middle East.
Greek legend says that Adonis was so handsome that even Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, couldn’t resist him.
When he was killed in a boar hunt she was so grief stricken that the gods of the lower world agreed to let him come up to earth and be with her for part of each year. From Adonis’ blood sprang the anemone or windflower. “Anemos” is Greek for “wind”.
Anemones provide some of the first bright spring colour. In the language of flowers they have come to represent “renewal of life and hope from Mother Earth”. Because each flower is short-lived they also remind us that life is transitory and we will be forsaken if we do not enjoy it now.
There are 70 species. Anemone blanda, the “windflower” is a delicate daisy that carpets the ground with tiny stars of blue, purple, pink and white in late winter and early spring. The hard rhizomes naturalize well even in dense shade under trees.
A. coronaria, the “Wind Poppy”, is the popular taller species to 30cm preferring sun to part shade. Give them rich, well-drained soil and liquid feed weekly as soon as buds appear. This can greatly increase the stem length and size of these superb cutflowers.
By planting rhizomes every few weeks from late summer onwards, flowers can be produced from late autumn through late spring.
Ranunculus include 400 species of buttercup. The brilliant Florist Ranunculus, R. asiaticus, was first imported into France in the 13th Century. It’s brightly shaded, satin blooms and black eyes became so popular that by the 18th Century over 800 hybrid varieties were available.
Today there are little more than 20. The wild species still creates bright scarlet clouds of colour in the fields of Palestine.
An old Libyan legend says that the young Ranunculus was a beautiful singer, always handsomely dressed in green and yellow silk. He enjoyed hearing his own songs so much that he became enraptured and died in ecstasy.
In honour of his melodies Orpheus transformed him into the flower so admired today. In the language of flowers Ranunculus represents “rich and radiant in charms and attraction”.
A bouquet of bright ranunculus is the ideal gift for someone admired. Like Anemones they are excellent In containers, borders and mass beds. Average soil enriched with compost, well rotted manure, or commercial food produces the most fully double blooms.
Poor drainage can cause spindly stems, singled-petalled flowers and few blooms of poor quality. Full sun and good air circulation are essential. Plant the tubers with the claws pointing down 5cm deep and 10-15cm apart from now through early spring.
Larger tubers usually indicate stronger plants. Plant smaller tubers early so they can become well established before spring flowering.