An overdue apology – to Anemone coronaria

I am really sorry but I misjudged you. When I was much younger (and more foolish) I planted some mixed anemone De Caen and my reward was a rather bedraggled mess of foliage and sporadic flowers in pink, white and red and blue and I was not very impressed. I decided that for garden display these plants were pretty useless. I had seen photos of Anemone coronaria in the wild in the eastern Mediterranean and in drifts in grass in gardens where this plant apparently thrives but I am afraid I dismissed it for the next thirty years.

I generally give plants more than one try before I give up on them so I am sure I must have planted these anemones again, especially as they are so cheap to buy, and I know of at least one other garden where I had them, but I never treated them very seriously. Until now.

anemone Mr fokker

Now, I hate to consider myself a plant snob; I love marigolds and bedding salvias as much as the rare and expensive. But I do wonder if part of the reason why I have dismissed De Caen anemones is because they are so cheap. I hope not but it might be a contributory factor.

Anyway, in the new cutting garden I decided to plant some. After all they are great cut flowers and they ‘should’ produce blooms for a good while and while I was convinced they are not good ‘garden plants’ I wanted some for cutting. Rather than a mixture I planted the pink ‘Sylphide’ and the blue ‘Mr Fokker’, partly because I knew they would make a good bunch together with no clashing reds. They were planted in October by taking out a trench about 5cm deep and scattering the black, wrinkled tubers so they were about 5cm apart long this. You are often told to soak them before planting but the ground is wet enough in Ireland so I didn’t bother.

These anemones are odd because if you plant them in autumn they should flower in spring but if you plant in spring they will bloom in summer, at least in their first year, before they settle down to spring blooming.

Well, hands up, I was wrong about these poor plants. They are blooming machines!

The first few flowers appeared in March and although the flowers were full size the stems were rather short and the leaves were rather sparse (top photo – ‘Mr Fokker’). They gave a few, small bunches, but as spring progressed and turned into summer the plants have just grown and grown with masses of leaves and vasefuls of flowers. As the weather has got warmer the stems have increased in length so they are now almost 30cm tall and the flowers have got a little smaller, but they are amazing. They have been in flower for much of March and all April and May and still show no signs of stopping. (photo below ‘Sylphide’)

anemine sylphide

The anemones are planted in the heavy clay here but it was well enriched with manure last year and the soil was lifted from the flat and they are in raised beds above the path. At the edge of the bed is a row of dianthus which will benefit from the drainage. Behind the anemones are some stocks and then other cutflower annuals. The anemones will die down as summer progresses but can be and will be left where they are to repeat their performance next year.

De Caen anemones (which were developed in France would you believe) are hardy perennials and do not have many pests or diseases although the older leaves can get mildew and aphids can attack the plants but, as if to show me what I have been missing all these years my plants have not had any blemishes at all. I have been deadheading any that do not get cut, to make sure they keep blooming and to prevent self seeding, but apart from that they have needed no attention other than to pick handfuls of flowers.

I apologise dear anemone – you are beautiful and worth your place in the cutting garden.

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