May 12, 2006

Anemones and Anemonella's: More Spring Ephemerals

Anemonella thalictroides 'Oscar Schoaf'
The wild Wood Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia, which grows in large colonies in the wood behind our our house (and which still does), were one of the first wild flowers which I learned the name of (the trillium was the first). As I have grown as a gardener, I have learned to appreciate the entire family of the woodland Ranunculids, including the still hard-to-find, Anemone nemerosa and it's close relative, the striking Anemonella thalictroides, above.

These small, bulbous or rhyzome forming Anemones which carpet woodlands in Western Europe and Asia are slowing becoming more popular with informed gardeners as long as one can provide the edaphic woodland conditions which they thrive in, ( wet springs and dry summers) exactly what most spring ephemerals want. Ephemerals that bloom in April and May, take advantage of the fact that the woodland trees have not come into full leaf, and by the time that they do, they not only shade the harsh sun, the canopy forces the trees to drink more water, and the soil in the woodland becomes dry, just as most ephemerals are going dormant, in early July. Now THAT is intellegent design!

Selected named forms of Anemone nemorosa and Anemonellas of the woodland pursuasion are available at the better plant nurseries, found usually in the woodland section where wild flowers are sold, aYou will only find them in the spring, since they die back and are gone by July. They are available from a few specialized nurseries or bulb catalogs in the autumn. Look for them, since they are well worth the effort to find, and once planted, will slowly spread and colonize neatly, never becoming a pest, and providing tasteful displays that come at a time when the garden could be full of garish Tulips and Hyacynths.

A double form of Anemone nemorosa

I am able to grow some named forms of Anemone nemorosa and Anemone thalictoides, as well as some double formed names. Whenever I find a pot at a nursery or at a rare plant auction I buy them. Every fall, I try to order a few from the catalogs, since they jsut don;t spread fast enough. A sinlge plant of a named form like 'Lismore Blue'will divide slowly to about 8 plants in ten years. With careful division annually, one can speed the rate at which they spread, but there us usually too many other tasks at hand at this season, and by the time I rememeber, they are gone.

Anemone nemorosa "Bowles Variety"
The white double forms and more simple single forms of A. nemorosa spread more quickly than the named forms, but the named forms are much larger. While at a visit to Kew Gardens in England a couple of years ago, I saw thousands of Anemone appenina, a a species very similar and perhaps superior to A. nemorosa, reinforcing the fact that one should plant as many as one can afford. Unfortunately, this species is not hardy in my central Massachusetts garden, and I must settle for A. nemorosa, which is still a fine garden plant indeed. Most of these small bulbous Anemones and Anemonella are hardy to USDA Zone 5, and some to zone 4-10.

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