Japanese anemone: starlet of the fall garden

Not only is the Japanese anemone a reliable perennial bloomer in the fall, it also blooms in the shade, needs little water to grow and has a clumping growth habit, allowing it to gradually spreading throughout the shady spots in your yard or garden.

 

Picture salmon-pink flowers that resemble porcelain daisies and leaves that look like they belong on a grapevine. The salmon-pink flowers have a waxy gloss and appear to be suspended in mid-air, blooming in clusters at the ends of thin 3- to 5-foot-long stems. Perfect copies of grape leaves mound around the bases of the stems.

 

This is what you can expect from a Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida), a plant nofall garden, or gardener, should be without.

 

The Japanese anemone is one of the best-kept secrets of the fall garden. Perhaps because it blooms at a time when most perennials are flowerless, or perhaps because it blooms in the shade, where flowery expectations at this time of year are virtually nil, the Japanese anemone is not well-known, not requested at nurseries and therefore grown sparingly in Southern California.

 

In fact, the Japanese anemone has a single glaring shortcoming in an age where credibility depends increasingly on the capacity to provide instant gratification and immediate results. After being planted in the garden, it may not flower for up to two years. No matter that – once it starts to bloom, an abundance of flowers will be produced eachfall for years and years to come.

 

It does not give flowers right away, and when the edges of its leaves turn crispy brown, as they are wont to do, it is probably mistaken for a failing plant and discarded to make way for yet another flat of impatiens or begonias.

 

The Japanese anemone is on an exclusive list of “painless perennials: 20 gems guaranteed to grow with a minimum of work.” This list may be found on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Web site (www.bbg.org).

 

It was compiled by Allan Armitage, a professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, as a result of discussions he had with 35 gardeners from across the country. The Japanese anemone, he discovered, may be grown successfully throughout the Western United States.

 

The Japanese anemone may be propagated from root cuttings or by division. It is not particularly finicky about soil but would prefer a sandy loam. Faded flowers and their stems should be removed to encourage more flower production during the Japanese anemone’s limited bloom period each fall. The plant will not flower if its roots are disturbed, so refrain from cultivating or turning up the soil where it grows.

 

The poppy-flowered anemone (Anemone coroni) grows from tubers and is planted at this time of year. Its flowers – in red, blue and white – will bloom next spring. It is commonly planted in Los Angeles bulb gardens, along with daffodil, freesia, hyacinth and Spanish bluebell.

 

The Persian or turban ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus), a tuberous relative of the anemone, produces the most vivid color display of bulbs, rhizomes, corms or tubers that are now available in nurseries.

 

A single turban ranunculus can produce more than 50 densely petaled flower heads in bright red, pink, yellow or white. The tubers look like little miniature octopuses, and they should be planted with tentacles pointing downward.

 

The trick to growing these plants is to water the tubers with one good soaking and then hold the water until shoots begin to appear. They can easily be killed by overwatering. Ironically, ranunculus means “little frog” in Latin and gets its name from the fact that many plants in the Ranunculus family grow in moist or even swampy sites.

 

Tip of the week: Now is the time to plant peas, whether your passion is edible sugar peas or flowering sweet peas. Both types have tendrils and will vine their way, unassisted, up a chain-link fence. With the help of stakes and string or a trellis, sweet peas will climb as high as 10 feet – up a wooden fence, block wall and even the sunny side of a garage. Sugar peas will grow about half as tall as sweet peas. Sugar peas are eaten directly from the vine, pods and all. Peas will not produce a crop if they are given too much nitrogen, so fertilize them minimally, if at all.

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