Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
October, 2010
Regional Report

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The delicate and ethereal flowers of Japanese anemones, such as those of 'Honorine Jobert,' belie the plant's tough constitution.

Punch Up Fall Flower Power with Japanese Anemones

If the blooms in your late-season garden are limited to mums, asters, dahlias, and pansies, take a look around. This month, shade gardens across the Middle South sparkle a bit brighter with the cheerful flowers of Japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida).

In my previous woodland garden, oak, sweet gum and hickory trees combined to create extremely dry and shady conditions. Finding plants that thrived, not just survived, in the harsh and inhospitable conditions was a challenge.

The Japanese anemones, however, did quite well on the outskirts of this severe environment. In fact, wet "feet" in winter can prove fatal for this perennial, so a well-drained location is essential for a prosperous plant.

The two cultivars I grew, both a shimmering white, are on the "must have" list for the garden I'm just beginning to plan for my new home.

'Honorine Jobert,' a much celebrated Plant of Merit, is a floriferous and reliable bloomer. Its ethereal, single-form flowers float above tall stems that reach three-feet or more above a clump of shorter, dark green foliage. Leaves, maple-shaped with three to five lobes, are typically covered in soft hairs.

Flowers are borne in clusters, with only a few stems needed for a full bouquet. Each blossom features six to nine overlapping petals (actually sepals) that sometimes have a rosy glow, especially on their undersides. Vivid golden-orange stamens surround a chartreuse, button-like center, giving the bloom a surprised, wide-eyed look.

I also grew 'Whirlwind,' another heavy bloomer, but with pure-white, semi-double flowers. Form and foliage is similar to 'Honorine Jobert,' and like it, the perennial blooms several weeks, usually from September well into October.

While I chose only white flowers to lighten the shade of my woodland garden, Japanese anemones also come in pink and rosy hues. Notable cultivars include 'Queen Charlotte,' a pink semi-double; 'September Charm,' a similar pink single-form on shorter stems; and 'Prinz Heinrich,' a rosy semi-double also on shorter stems.

Don't let the beauty of these flowers fool you into thinking they need to be coddled, however. Their charming appearance masks a tough constitution. Though I enriched the soil with organic matter when planting, they otherwise thrived on neglect.

Experts contend the plants need moist soil, but I rarely irrigated the woodland. I did, however, apply mulch, which conserved moisture and moderated soil temperature.

Japanese anemones have fibrous roots that spread readily once established. I had no trouble increasing their numbers by digging and dividing the perennial in spring, as long as I maintained an adequate root ball when transplanting.

Often sold as shade lovers, I found the plants grew and bloomed better with bright, filtered light, or even a half day of sun. I placed them where they received filtered sun in morning, midday shade, and a couple of hours of direct sunlight in late afternoon. Plants that were moved into deep shade made a nice display of foliage, but failed to offer flowers.

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