Anemones in spring

As the snowdrops start to fade (and this is the time to divide and replant them) the spring anemones begin to appear. In my new garden I have made sure to add some because they are easy to please and bring such delicate colour to the garden.

Anyone who has walked through local woods in spring will be familiar with the common wood anemone with its frilly leaves and cheerful white flowers. Sometimes the buds, which are nodding as they emerge, are flushed with pink or lilac and there are lots of cultivated kinds with more intensely coloured blooms, including lavender blues and there are doubles too so there are lots to choose from. These are not easy to grow and buy as dormant plants because they do not have bulbs or tubers but thickened, fleshy stems that do not tolerate drying out. So it is better to buy them as growing plants. A pot will have several leaves growing directly from the soil and there should be some flowering stems too. This is a plant that prefers a humus-rich soil and some shade so is ideal for planting under shrubs to cover the soil in spring and among ferns and hostas. One thing to watch is that they die down quickly after flowering and have disappeared by June so you need to make sure that you don’t dig them up by accident.

For a sunnier spot, Anemone blanda is a wonderful choice. This can be planted as dry tubers in autumn but is more reliable bought as growing plants in pots now. Like our native wood anemone this appears in spring and dies down quickly after blooming so is a good choice to plant in grass along with small daffodils – you can still cut the grass by the end of May so your lawn won’t be ruined. It will thrive in sun or light shade and is not too fussy about soil. The blue flowers look amazing with golden yellow celandines, so often thought of as weeds. It will slowly spread into clumps.

In addition to the usual blue there are also white and pink varieties and all are great spring plants. I like to plant the white anemones among hellebores – the developing hellebore foliage covers the dying anemones in spring and because the hellebores can be left undisturbed for many years the anemones are safe from accidental digging up.

The other common anemone is the poppy anemone, usually sold in autumn as a mix, often as ‘De Caen’. These are Mediterranean plants so need a sunny spot. They are naturally winter and spring growers and also die down in summer. They prefer a light, warm soil with lots of organic matter if possible. Colours vary from white to pink, red and blue, often with a white centre and always with a black ‘button’ in the centre and black stamens. The dried tubers can be planted from autumn right through to spring. Plant them about 5cm deep and 10cm apart. If planted in autumn they will start to bloom about now but if you plant now they will bloom in May and June – but the following season they will start to grow and to bloom earlier. They have lush foliage like giant parsley and produce their blooms, on 20-30cm (8-12in) stems for several months. They are a wonderful cut flower and they last well in water. If you have room in the garden they make a great plant to grow for cut flowers. I have some planted under my fruit bushes where they don’t worry the fruit because they are dormant by June, and not seen again till the first signs of foliage in late autumn. Look out for packs of tubers now and get them planted as soon as possible.

Jobs for the week

There is lots to do now.
Get roses pruned – mulch them too.
Keep weeds under control where possible.
Divide herbaceous plants
Sow broad beans in pots in the greenhouse or outside if the weather allows
Sow first-year-flowering perennials such as achillea and agastache
Plant seed potatoes in bags for an early crop
Mulch under shrubs to prevent weed seedlings appearing
If you are growing in a heated greenhouse, sow tomatoes and peppers now. If growng in an unheated greenhouse wait till mid March. If growing outside do not sow till late April.

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