Elegant Japanese anemones
Late-summer Japanese anemones will bring natural chic into beds and borders. Val Bourne nominates the cultivars to go for
September’s a serene gardening month with less to do, cooler nights and a crystal-clear light that flatters the garden. The simple flowers of Japanese anemone float through the garden now, their long stems topped with elegant blooms in shades of bright and cool pink and pure white. They tend to ramble on a network of roots, which is how Scottish plant hunter Robert Fortune came across Anemone hupehensis roaming through a Shanghai graveyard. He recorded that they were “a most appropriate ornament” and by 1844 the elegant plant had been introduced here. Typically it’s single-flowered, often with two darker petals opposite each other, as in August-flowering ‘Hadspen Abundance’ and ‘Bowles’s Pink’. However, there are fuller, semi-double pink forms with roughly 20 petals, listed under the rather cumbersome name of Anemone hupehensis japonica. These bloom later, with more-vivid, longer-lasting flowers.
Grey seed pearls
My favourite, ‘Pamina’, arose as a seedling and was named by Hans Simon, a nurseryman from Bavaria, in 1983. In July, the large buds are a real feature, suspended on downy stems like grey seed pearls, and in my rose and peony borders it provides a tall screen of bright-pink flowers into early autumn. Shorter ‘Rotkäppchen’ (often sold as ‘Red Riding Hood’) has deep-pink narrow petals and reaches up to 60cm (2ft) tall. It’s part of The Fantasy Series that also includes ‘Pocahontas’ and ‘Little Princess’. Most gardeners prefer the taller Japanese anemones, which are airy and elegant. Plant breeders have produced hybrids and most have single, milky-toned flowers on slender stems in late summer and early autumn. Iconic white ‘Honorine Jobert’, found in 1858 in Monsieur Jobert’s garden by Victoire Lemoine of Nancy in France, has still not been bettered despite its great age. The perfect white petals surround a boss of gold stamens, above stems and foliage in a comforting dark green. It has a habit of creeping into the shade where it looks almost angelic. Japanese anemones do prefer to choose their own spot, and weave their way through other plants, creating a sea of colour. Use them to create an informal look with a dark shrub such as Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, or with lavender-blue asters such as ‘Little Carlow’. They don’t need staking and won’t get eaten by deer or rabbits.