The Anemone genus is part of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family. There are a little over 120 species of anemones in a wide range of colors.
Anemones are popular in gardens as individual species flower in the spring, summer, or fall, providing continual color.
Adonis was adapted by the ancient Greeks from earlier religions who revered the god as a symbol of rebirth, planting quick-growing (and quick-dying) plants in his honor.
In the Greek version of his mythology Adonis was gored by a wild boar while on a hunt and died in the arms of his lover, Aphrodite. The goddess dripped nectar onto his blood from which sprang the first anemone.
Description and Characteristics
There are many species of anemone, providing gardeners with a single plant type that can be grown in a variety of colors and seasons under similar soil and light conditions. Traits can vary widely with several types of roots, stem lengths, colors, and groupings. All anemones have basal leaves, are bisexual, and have nectaries. Many wild anemone species do not have pedals.
Gardeners mainly deal with these six species, each of which has several varieties:
Canada Anemone (anemone canadensis) - Also called the roundhead anemone, crowfoot, or meadow anemone, this flower grows in meadows and near bodies of water throughout North America. It was used by Native Americans as both an astringent and a salve for wounds. These anemones have sharp-toothed leaves and bright white pedals. They bloom throughout the summer.
Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis japonica) - Originating in central China, this flower was brought over to Japan hundreds of years ago. Grown from root cuttings, the stem can reach as high as four feet, topped by a white, pink, or purple flower. These bloom in the fall.
Grape-leaved Anemone (Anemone vitifolia and Anemone tomentosa) - Both vitifolia and tomentosa are labeled as "grape-leaved," but tomentosa can withstand colder climates and its varieties tend to have smaller flowers.
Stems of these plant can reach six feet in height with leaves that resemble those on a grape vine. Most varieties have flowers that come in pairs, appearing in late summer or early fall. They are closely related to the Japanese anemone and are sometimes grouped under the same general label.
Blue Anemone Flower (Anemone coronaria) - Sometimes called a "blue poppy" anemone because it resembles that flower, it's popular with gardeners because it's easier to grow than actual poppies. Three to five flowers spring from one bulb, appearing anywhere from mid-spring to early summer.
Narcissus Head Anemone (Anemone narcissiflora) - At least a dozen varieties fall under this species. They are often found growing in the wild in mountainous and northern climates throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Each stem can grow two to eight flowers. All Narcissus head varieties bloom in late spring.
The name "anemone" means "daughter of the wind." The name was chosen to show that the winds that blow open the flower also blow away its dead petals. Over time it supplanted other plants to become the central symbol of Adonis.
Some believe the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was built over one of these shrines, with writings from the period describing a cave with an anemone grove on the site before the church's construction.
Cultivation and Care
How you start an anemone will depend on the type of root it has:
Tuberous - Separate the tubers in the summer. Tubers should be planted about two inches deep and four to six inches from the nearest bulb.
Fibrous - Separate in spring or fall and keep the plant potted for at least a year.
Rhyzomatous - Separate the rhyzomes in the spring. Rhyzomous flowers can be forced to bloom in winter if grown indoors.
Seeds should be started in containers placed in a cold frame. All anemones should be planted in the fall in moderate climates, or can be started in the spring in northern climates.
Anemone flowers thrive in partial shade. They prefer loamy, moist, slightly acidic soil with good drainage. Additional mulching can help anemones grow in colder areas, and they can withstand the less intense direct sunlight.
Diseases and Pests
Cutworms can be a major problem with anemones: The worms will attack the stems first and new larvae will eat into roots, making their presence less noticeable than other pests. Several species may be present in your area, extending the breeding season of these worms throughout the year.
Cutworms can be blocked from flowers by placing an aluminum foil collar around the stem buried an inch or so into the ground. A residual insecticide will also keep worms off of anemones.
Rust is possible with anemones, but because these flowers like growing in well-drained areas the risk is reduced. If rust is present, remove any visibly affected leaves and treat with a fungicide.
While rusts are normally plant-specific, these fungi can be transferred to anemones from plants in the Prunus genus. This genus includes most non-citrus fruit trees and shrubs.
Japanese anemones are susceptible to attack by mosaic viruses creating spotted flower petals. Affected plants should be removed and destroyed to stop the infection.
Anemones are used in gardens as border flowers, and they are also common in arrangements.
Flowers should be cut in the morning when the buds are still closed. They can be opened by being placed in room-temperature water for a few hours. A flower should last about nine days after cutting.
Anemones were once commonly used for herbal medicines, but this has fallen out of practice. The chemical Protoanemonin is produced by a chemical reaction in Ranunculaceae plants when they are damaged.
Herbalists took advantage of its irritant properties by applying it topically to treat arthritis and headaches. The substance is toxic if ingested, causing dizziness, nausea, vomiting and, in severe cases, paralysis.
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