The Intriguing Japanese Anemone

by Patrick on September 28, 2011

If you think fall is the season for only mums and asters, then you haven’t been introduced to Japanese anemones.  The flowers are at their peak performance in late summer  through late fall and add a tall, late blooming accent to the garden in pink, rose or white. The light level for these perennials is crucial for their continued success. Part sun is the professional recommendation to spare them the damaging effects of afternoon sun which can burn the foliage and at its worst can eventually kill the plant.

Be also warned that Japanese anemones take a while to establish but once they get going, they can begin to get aggressive and crowd out less aggressive perennials. They spread by underground runners which can be difficult to control so some people think it should only used in a place where it can be  contained. However, some experts recommend dividing every  two to three years to thwart its aggressive nature . So I’d recommend contacting your local nurseryman to see how they recommend growing it in you area.

They are reliably hardy to zone 6 and up to zone 4 with significant winter protection.They average around 4′ and are a stout, upright perennials. They require a rich, uniformly moist soil and do not tolerate drought conditions where the foliage will begin to die and render a messy, ugly looking plant.  So be kind to them with water especially during the summer. Ideally, the deep green, highly ridged  foliage keeps the plant looking beautiful all season long. They are deer resistant and make great cutflowers.

China Not Japan

Japanese anemones are commonly known as windflowers. The word anemone is derived from the Greek word meaning daughter of the wind. It’s very ironic since the perennial anemone should be sheltered from the wind. Somebody in the common name department was  dealing with Asian confusion or generalities along the way because Japanese anemones are actually native to China. The hybrids we know today were developed 125 years ago by English, French and German breeders using Anemone vitifloria and A. hupehensis var. japonica,  so they are completely man developed plants despite their simple appearance. Today breeders are currently working on even larger flowers in deeper shades of purple for the cutflower market but their hardiness is yet to be tested.

‘Honorine Jobert’

The most common variety is Honorine Jobert (pictured above and at right) which was discovered as a root mutation of the original hybrid by a French nurseryman in the 1850s. Mr. Jobert named it after his daughter Honorine. Jennifer Bolyard is the head perennial gardener at Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden. I’ve used her as a source of information in several columns I have written. She recommends three additional Anemone hybrids for this area.

‘Andrea Atkinson’ sports semi-double, 2″  white flowers with chartreuse centers surrounding golden anthers that adorn tall stems. Deep green, maple-shaped foliage is 2′ tall and 5′ in bloom.

‘Queen Charlotte’

With huge 3-4″ double pink blossoms,  ‘Party Dress’ is a Blooms of Bressingham introduction. The petals are ruffled like a petticoat and twice the size of all other varieties. This taller variety of 36″ in height is sarcastically known as the ground cover anemone, so it will require some form of staking.

‘Queen Charlotte’ was introduced in Germany in 1898 and debuted in the US at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. It is a semi-double pink with purple undersides with 2″ blooms on a 3′ plant. This charming Japanese anemone won an Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. With ruffling like that I think that my new favorite.  Can you imagine this wit burgundy mums and blue asters?. Not your typical fall palette but works for me.

A. robustissima

As the name implies, Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’ is a big, sturdy plant with a height of 48″ and 3″ pink flowers.  Jennifer’s favorite is the only true hardy Japanese anemone hailing from the mountains of Tibet and Western China making it hardy to zone 4 and if heavily mulch to zone 3.  It is reported to be the most sun and drought tolerant of all the varieties.

Horticulture magazine also recommends the white variety ‘Whirlwind’. Their pink selections are ‘ Max Vogel and ‘Serenade’.

So put it in your Google calendar for April 1, 2012 to buy some Japanese anemones (I do that trick all the time). Or track some down from a friend and have them divide some for you. In this area, you need to have all new perennials in the ground by October 15 to allow  enough time for the roots to take hold before winter halts their development. Check with your nursery for the date in your area.

Top Photo Credits: Horticulture  Magazine

Patrick's Garden

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