Ah, September; low, golden light, amber colored fields and fragrant orchards laden with fruit. I love this time of year, especially in the garden. Some of my favorite colors come to life in late summer and early autumn; bold red, burnt orange and bittersweet, saffron and gold, plum, wine and cerise. Playing vibrant fall foliage against late blooming flowers is a great way to get maximum impact from the end-of-season garden show. Asters, Monkshood (Aconitum), Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex), Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis formosana) and single flowered Chrysathemums are some of my preferred autumn blooming knock-outs. But when it comes to fall flowers, I must admit a weakness for the delicate beauty and rich color of Anemone.
Just now, the Japanese Windflowers are beginning to unfurl their pretty, pink petals in my garden. Anemone are gorgeous perennial plants, and although I admire all species and cultivars, Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ is probably my favorite among the Asian hybrids. In early September, beautiful silver-tipped buds —striking in moody, low light— begin to open; revealing silken petals in the most gorgeous shade of deep pink. Windflowers are lovely in combination with many plants, and I delight in experimenting with all sorts of color and texture harmonies and contrasts. Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ and Hosta ‘August Moon’ are lovely partners for Anemone x hybrida in partial shade. In sunnier locations, the deep pink flowering cultivars are striking when played against the golden autumn color of Amsonia hubrichtii or A. illustris, or backed up woody plants like Lindera benzoin or Clethra alnifolia (both of which produce beautiful yellow autumn leaves). A screen of blue-green conifers provides gorgeous contrast to A. x hybrida ‘Serenade’, ‘September Charm’ or ‘Robustissima’. All Anemone are lovely cut flowers in the vase, but I find that they are so beautiful in the late season border, that I rarely cut them.
Japanese Anemone and hybrids (sometimes listed as A. japonica, A. elegans or A. hupehensis var. japonica x A. vitifolia) are very low-maintenance, disease-free plants once established. All prefer moist, deep, well-drained soil and shielding from hot, mid-day sun. Most Japanese Anemone hybrids are hardy in USDA zones 5/6-10, with some sturdy varieties toughing it out as far north as zone 4. I typically grow the hardier Anemone cultivars in my garden (including A. x hybrida ‘Robustissima’ and ‘Serenade’), but I always provide winter protection for the more delicate plants in my garden; applying a thick layer of composted leaf mold or shredded bark mulch. Japanese Anemone are attractive garden plants year round; forming neat mounds of lovely, cut foliage (some cultivars produce blue-green leaves). Taller cultivars (such as 4′ A. x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’) sometimes require staking in windy sites. However, properly sited —at the back of the border or in a protected spot— I find they are self-supporting in all but the wildest of weather.
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