Essential anemones for the autumn garden

Autumn seems to have arrived in a soaking, blustery rush this year and I’ve been really cheered by the welcome blooms of Japanese anemones which are standing proud despite the wind. In fact, while all the plants around them appear to be leaning and in various states of moist decay, the flexible stems and wafting petals help earn their common name of ‘windflowers’.

While they might take a few years to become fully established, Japanese anemones are long lived and reliable once they get going and that makes them a must have for any garden.

Where is the best place to grow Japanese anemones

These plants are full hardy and well suited to growing in sun and part shade. Part sun usually refers to borders that get sun for around 6 hours a day in the summer. High light levels are not so crucial in the winter months, when they will have died back to a great extent. They tend not to flower well when grow in very heavy shade during the summer, or in positions where they get full sun at midday, in particular on dry soils.

The great thing about Japanese anemones is that they are not fussy about soil. On very heavy clay, it is a good idea to improve the soil by forking in plenty of well-rotted garden compost or bagged soil improver. Where the soil is very wet over winter, it is worth planting on a small mound – around 10cm (4in.) high. This means that excess moisture can drain away from the crown so the plants don’t sit in water. Their roots, meanwhile, can tap into the moisture below as they need it.

Improving all other types of soil will benefit the establishment of Japanese anemones in their first year. On dry soils it is worth adding extra compost in the base of the plating hole. The only soil that they won’t really thrive on is a thin acid sand.

What are the best types of Japanese anemone to grow

There are a number of different autumn-flowering anemones that are suitable for growing in herbaceous borders or mixed in with shrubs and other plants. The largest forms are suitable for growing at the back of a border. The shorter varieties can be planted at the front of borders. All are based on the species Anemone japonica, A. huphensis and a number of hybrids referred to as A. x hybrida. There are lots of different varieties and cultivars with flowers in shades of white, pale pink and dark pink that are specific to them.

My particular favourites are the taller forms most of which are robust enough to support themselves. Of these the white-flowered A. japonica ‘Whirlwind’, grows up to 1m in height with blooms up to 6cm in diameter. Equally tall is A. x hybrida ‘Honorine Joubert’, and is just as good for gardens.

For the mid pink colour range, I grow A. x hybrida ‘Elegans’ for its height and free-flowering nature. And the form ‘Robustissima’ is another good Japanese anemone with soft pink blooms that appear to have a pencilled, darker edge.

There are shorter growing hybrids in both of these basic colourways. The best dark coloured forms as well as those flushed with bluish-lavender tones tend to be compact in habit. Of these, I think the best are A. huphensis ‘Hadspen Abundance’ (pink-red) and the more recent A. ‘Red Riding Hood’ (deep pink-red). Meantime the beautiful colour break of the summer-flowering A. ‘Wild Swan’ (flushed lavender-blue) has been used in breeding to produce summer and autumn-blooming varieties. These include ‘Dreaming Swan’ (‘Macane004’ PBR) and others which produce a long succession of flowers from June to October in many case.

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