Japanese anemones are outstanding plants to add colour and height to herbaceous perennial borders.
These elegant members of the buttercup family are hardy, easy to grow and flower generously from August through to October, even in shadier spots. Exceedingly undemanding in their soil requirements, anemones truly are "daughters of the wind" and will cope well in the most exposed locations. Colours range from deep pink, through lighter pastel shades to blush-pink and pure snow-white.
Pretty in Pink
Hybrid anemones are a cross between Anemone hupehensis var. japonica (‘hupehensis’ meaning from the Hupeh Province in China) and Anemone vitifolia (a Himalayan species). A classic is Anemone x hybrida ‘September Charm’, whose prolific rose-pink flowers on graceful one metre stems attract a host of pollinators from late summer to early autumn: an RHS Award of Garden Merit shoo-in.
Semi-double Anemone x hybrida ‘Königin Charlotte’ and Anemone hupehensis ‘Hadspen Abundance’ also achieved coveted AGMs with their soft pink and deep pink flowers respectively. I first came across ‘Hadspen Abundance’ in Beth Chatto’s woodland garden and was blown away by the striking contrasts in petal colour with two darker petals interspersed with three lighter petals. It is well worth growing this unusual and glamorous anemone.
Renowned plantsman Alan Bloom’s Anemone hupehensis ‘Bressingham Glow’ is another stunner with gorgeous rose-pink semi-double blooms and a central boss of golden-yellow stamens. Upping the ante, the exuberantly ruffled double-flowers of Anemone hupehensis var. japonica ‘Pamina’ and ‘Tiki Sensation’ create ripples of pink perfection in the borders.
Bright and White
Nothing lights up a shady spot under trees in late summer with as much style as my favourite Japanese anemone, Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’. In white border designs, try combining it with Dicentra ‘Aurora’, Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ and Lily-of-the-Valley for spring interest and summer perennials like Geranium clarkei ‘Kashmir White’, Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora and Atrantia major ‘Large White’.
For pure white blooms with double-flowered attitude, Anemone x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’ takes the sophistication of ‘Honorine Jobert’ and adds extra layers of petals, creating a softly ruffled effect. Anemone ‘Fantasy Snow Angel’ is another double-flowered white anemone but at 45cm high, this compact form is ideal for containers and smaller borders. She is part of the ‘Fantasy Series’, a dwarf range that includes the beautiful rose-pinks of ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Red Riding Hood’, ‘Jasmine’ and ‘Cinderella’.
Filled with Frills
If you are looking for an anemone with real attitude, try Anemone ‘Frilly Knickers’, winner of the HTA Virtual Plant Awards 2020. Its deliciously dishevelled white petals are flushed with hints of lilac giving the flowers the tousled appearance of ruffled pantaloons. Another relatively compact anemone at just 60cm in height, ‘Frilly Knickers’ will knock your socks off in a patio display in sun or semi-shade.
To create height in a shady border, plant anemones behind larger Hostas and Ferns where their abundant flowers appear to float above the strong architectural forms of the foliage plants in the foreground. In sunnier spots, Japanese anemones combine beautifully with prairie grasses like Calamagrostis, Molinia and Stipa and late-flowering perennials such as Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Asters and Helenium. By adding a few Japanese anemones to the borders, you can extend your summer colour right through to the first frosts.
Growing Japanese Anemones
Accommodating and reliable, Japanese anemones are a low maintenance addition to the garden. They dislike sitting in wet soil in winter, but will tolerate most other soil conditions, including dry
shade. They can be exceedingly vigorous in some situations, so keep an eye on how quickly they are spreading and remove excess plants if necessary.
Japanese anemones are best propagated by division in spring or autumn. This will help to keep clumps at a manageable size and ensure good plant health. Although they are not great fans of being
dug up, divided and moved, they should recover relatively quickly. These easy-to-care-for perennials don’t need staking and will generally last for many years when managed in this way, gradually
expanding to fill their allotted space.
Written by: Nic Wilson