I Love Flower Shows for their ability to reconnect you with familiar ideas that you may have previously overlooked or just taken for granted, allowing you to see them in a whole new light, like it’s the very first time. So I was delighted to go to the Chelsea Flower Show, after a hiatus of over two years due to a pandemic, and reconnect with an old botanical friend: the Japanese anemone.
Combining exotic appeal and reliable resilience, these are, in my opinion at least, the best late summer or early fall flowering species you can buy. Despite their rather confusing common name, these plants are actually native to China, where they are known as the ‘broken bowl flower’. Indeed, when you take a close look at the way the petals are arranged on some of the wildest cultivars, they do indeed look like shards of fine ceramic captured in slow motion as a porcelain bowl shatters. They looked so effortlessly elegant on Robert Myers’ Florence Nightingale Garden, it was easy to see why they had been grown in China since at least the Tang Dynasty – which lasted from 618 to 906 AD – and yet they have the air and feel at home in Britain. gardens.
Perhaps this is because, despite their distant origins, these plants actually come from climates very similar to that of the UK, growing in the edges of humid forests and sunny riverbanks in the wild. They are very resistant to the worst cold the UK climate can inflict on them and will tolerate the type of deep shade that prevents most flowering plants from blooming healthily. For its ability to really shine in shady places, I love the pure white semi-double flowers of Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ which, to me, seems to spring from an ornate Chinese screen. However, if color is your thing, there are many more lavish cultivars, such as ‘Pamina’, which are teeming with hot pink petals resembling gorgeous and glorious handfuls of flamingo feathers.
Perhaps the best thing about these plants is their ability to tolerate the toughest spots in the garden – that deadly combination of deep shade and dry soil, where only a tiny fraction of the plants will thrive. They’ll even spread out quite vigorously in the right spot, meaning that in just a few short years, a single plant can fill a surprisingly large bed, which also makes them an economical choice. Fortunately, the vigor of this species has so far not been shown to be a threat to wild ecosystems beyond the boundaries of the garden. I am thinking a bit of peppermint – certainly something that will fill the space quickly, but although it has been cultivated in this country for hundreds of years, it has yet to become a nuisance outdoors where it is really an advantage.
If you want a plant that really makes sense as most gardens slip into fall slumber, that’s easy to grow even in the toughest places, and grows ridiculously fast, it would be hard to find a better one. option.
Follow Jacques on Twitter @Botanygeek